Is your neighbourhood ‘water-secure’? This index could tell you

An analysis of Bengaluru water supply origin, quality, consumption patterns by area, recharge methods, and the responsible authorities.

Bengaluru’s water crisis hit new lows in March 2024, which led to disruptions in water supply. There are areas in the city where water supply is irregular, expensive and unpredictable, bringing the daily lives of many communities to a standstill. It was this issue that made us, as a group, tackle the issue of water security at the Bengaluru Water Datajam held by in March.

The notion of water security is a tricky problem to address. It depends on multiple factors like ecological security, risk management of the city, to name a few (Aboelnga et. al., 2019). Therefore, we first needed to consider a definition of water security to narrow down our focus.

Hence, we defined water security as:

  • An acceptable level of water-related risks to humans and ecosystems, coupled with the availability of water of sufficient quantity and quality to support livelihoods
  • National security
  • Human health
  • Ecosystem services (Bakker & Morinville, 2013)

Out of these factors, we focused on “sufficient quantity and quality to support livelihoods” for the scope of our index.

The group comprised members with diverse exposure, interests, and skill sets. The common goal was to equip citizens with information to hold local civic bodies accountable and respond to incidents related to limited access to clean and safe water resources.

The primary objectives were:

  1. Assess the level of water security (or lack thereof) in the areas/wards where residents lived
  2. Gain insight into available redressal mechanisms

Our problem statement focused on the citizen as a central actor, with the question Am I water secure?

We examined the origin, quality, consumption patterns by area, recharge methods, and the responsible authorities. We assessed potential indicators that could contribute to estimating the water security index. To do this, we transformed these fundamental questions into measurable variables that we could collect and analyse data for. We arrived at the following variables.

Water tanker
A water tanker in Bengaluru. Water supply by private tankers is a lifeline for . Pic: Sankar C G /Citizen Matters archives

Read more: Water shortage in Bengaluru: Families, schools, hospitals share their struggle

Indicators and calculations

To avoid arbitrary weighting, we grouped variables into broader indices and assigned weights, accordingly. This led to the development of a water security index for each area. The resulting indices are:

IndicatorsAssessment Parameters/Variables
The Cauvery index – Assessed Cauvery river water allocation to individual wards 
– Cauvery supply volumes of 2017 JICA report into BBMP ward level data 
– Adjusted for ward population, this calculates the daily Cauvery water per person. Wards are ranked by water supply volume
Groundwater index: Objective: To capture the groundwater reliance of each ward.
– Groundwater supply 
– Quality 
– Recharge-ability aspects 
– Number of borewellsLakes/surface water coverage
– Groundwater extraction
– Groundwater quality
We ranked the wards for each variable and consolidated them into a global rank. 
Land-Use index: Land use has a significant impact on both water demand as well as the recharge-ability.
– Unbuilt area 
– Commercial land 
Governance index:Citizen-centric index: Aimed to show the availability of grievance and discussion channels with authorities.
Governance index mapping: Based on the list of officials’ contact details.
List completeness: A comprehensive list exists, but functionality and responsiveness of numbers have not been personally verified.

This article is the first part in a four-part series. In Part 2, the analysts will explain the methodology used in estimating each of these indices and the results obtained.

(The other team members who contributed their insights for this article are: Swati Ganeshan, VishnuPriya Viswanathan, Ritika Gupta, Aniket Sawant, and Chandanapriya Dhanraj)

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