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    Coronavirus crisis: Wash hands to stay safe, but let us not create a water crisis next

    Coronavirus crisis: Wash hands to stay safe, but let us not create a water crisis next

    Coronavirus crisis: Wash hands to stay safe, but let us not create a water crisis next
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    By Shivani Tanna   IST (Updated)

    600 million Indians are already facing “high to extreme water stress” each year. 21 cities including Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad will run out of groundwater by 2020, affecting 100 million people, a NITI Aayog report says. The report predicts that 40 percent of India’s population will not have access to drinking water by 2030.
    Considering India’s current population of 137 crore,  roughly 44 out of 100 people are already grappling with water shortage
    The global pandemic has already tightened its grip over India. As a precautionary measure, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended washing hands properly which involves lathering the soap and scrubbing hands on both sides for at least 20 seconds to prevent transmission of novel coronavirus. The question is—does India have so much water to provide?
    A 20-30 second hand wash uses around 3.5-4 litres of water with the tap on. We use around 40 litres of water assuming one washes his hands 10 times a day. In this crisis, we require additional 20 litres per person assuming one usually washes his hands an extra 5 times a day on an average. This water wastage can obviously be reduced if we turn off the tap while scrubbing our hands. To understand better let’s look at the table below.
    Water usage by one person
    Water used by one person in 10 washes (in litres)Water used by one person in 5 washes (in litres)Extra water used by one person during COVID-19 outbreak (in litres)
    In a day402020
    In a month1200600600
    If you are lucky enough, and belong to the 56 percent population with enough  water and use extra 600 litres of water each month just to wash hands, remember there are  77 crore others are doing the same. This means a usage of 46,200 crore EXTRA litres of water!!
    Now, some of you will be tempted to take long hot baths to beat the COVID-19 blues. Let’s look at some numbers again, an average bath uses 130-180 litres of water whereas a 10 minute low flow shower will use around 95 litres.
    For those of you working from home, the lockdown is a perfect opportunity to take long luxurious bubble baths in your bathtubs. That is using 265 litres of water, on a conservative basis. You might say you don’t fill the tub fully, but still consider how much waste water you are generating!
    Getting down to ground reality, Chennai was among the cities badly hit by drought last year. Three rivers, four water bodies, five wetlands and six forests have completely dried in Chennai despite having better water resources and rains than any other metro cities, the NITI Aayog report said.
    How will cities like Chennai manage to provide the extra billion litres of water to help its people wash away the deadly virus?
    The only option is to use water wisely while striving to maintain basic hygiene during these tough times. No government policies right now will help fill up reservoirs. Mind you, summer has begun. We are already in the middle of a crisis. Let’s not add to the burden.
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