Water Laws in India


“Water is life’s matter and matrix, mother, and medium. There is no life without water.”

The most graceful gift of God is Water. It constitutes more than 70% of our mother earth. It may sound that it’s a copious amount, and there can’t be any water shortage any day. But unfortunately out of the 70% of water only 3% can be consumed, so it must be used judiciously. Earth’s water is finite, i.e., the amount remains the same, but the question arises about its purity, whether it has been the same all along.

Water is a unique substance which supports and cherishes all form of life on this planet. Without water, Earth would have been nothing less than a dead plant. UNDP has defined water as ‘the stuff of life and a basic human right.’ That’s why it’s more the reason to monitor its quality and work towards improving it. To achieve this, policies and actions that are aggressive, positive, and timely are required. The world has a moral obligation to ensure that future generations inherit Earth with clean water and a healthy environment.

Management of Water in India

In view of the critical importance of water for human and animal life, ecological balance, and economic and developmental activities of all kinds, as well as its growing scarcity, water resource planning, and management, as well as its optimal, economical, and fair usage, has become a top priority.

 Water Governance and Sustainable Water Management

Water is also vital to people’s livelihoods, notably agriculture, which is still the primary source of income for most people. Simultaneously, it must be controlled in a way that prioritizes its conservation and preservation in the short and long term for human uses to continue to be sustainable. This poses a significant challenge in a context where water regulation has primarily been conceived around either the state’s dominance as the actor in charge of all water for “public purposes” or individual landowners’ unrestricted control over groundwater found beneath their land, even at the expense of other landowners’ similar use.

Urban Water management 

The majority of Indian cities are water-stressed, with no town having a constant supply of water. The Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) estimates that 182 cities require immediate attention in terms of proper water and wastewater management. According to official figures, sanitation coverage has grown, but resource sustainability and slippages are still relatively common. 

Furthermore, in cities with populations of more than one million people, the official water supply after 35 percent leakage is only 125 litres per day per capita, far less than the demand of 210 litres per capita. Wastewater management has become a serious concern since infrastructure construction and regulations have not kept pace with population growth and urbanization. Although the government has made tremendous efforts to prevent surface water contamination, the lack of wastewater treatment continues to jeopardize these efforts. A total of 160 million latrines and septic tanks contribute 80% of the pollution of the country’s surface waters.

While enacting comprehensive federal water legislation is not a must for ensuring that water law achieves its social, human rights, and environmental aims, it would be an appropriate point to start to ensure proper water resource management and conservation.

Water Laws in India

  • Water Management Act.

The legal status of water and water estate, the methods and conditions of water management (water use, water protection, regulation of watercourses, and other water bodies and protection from adverse effects of water), the method of organizing and performing water management tasks and functions, and the primary conditions for carrying out water management activities are all regulated by this Act.

  • Water Prevention and Control of Pollution Act, 1974

 The primary goal is to prevent water pollution, provide for the preservation of water bodies, and carry out activities that encourage water restoration. The Central Pollution Control Board and the State Pollution Control Board were established by the federal and state governments, respectively, with the goal of putting this Act into practice. The Central Pollution Control Board is responsible for ensuring the purity of streams and wells throughout the state. The Central Pollution Control Board has the authority to advise the federal government on a variety of issues relating to water pollution prevention and control.

  • Damodar Valley Corporation Prevention of Water Pollution Act, 1948

Since time immemorial, the Damodar Valley has been one of the most prosperous river basins in the country. Damodar Valley Corporation was founded with the goal of monitoring the valley’s operations. This river receives 80 percent of its garbage during the monsoon season, which includes waste from mines and industry. The agricultural industry had changed since the formation of this Cooperation. The percentage of land used for agriculture fell from 59 percent in 1925 to just ten percent in 1984. During that time, the mining sector had become a necessity. The effluents from these mines were discharged into this river, and it resulted in water contamination.

  • The IPC and Pollution

Provisions have explicitly been made down in Indian criminal law to punish a person who commits an infraction in violation of the Code.

Section 277 of the Code stipulates that anyone who knowingly fouls a public reservoir or a public spring is liable to a three-month jail sentence, a fine of 500 rupees, or both.

Case Laws

1.      The Supreme Court ruled in State of Himachal Pradesh v. Umed Ram Sharia that everyone has the right to life as enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution, that he also has the right to his life under Article 21, and that this right encompasses not only physical existence but also the quality of life.

2.      In Subhash Kumar v. the State of Bihar, the Supreme Court ruled that the right to life “includes the right to enjoy pollution-free water and air for full enjoyment of life.” 

3.      In the Sardar Sarovar case, the Supreme court directly derived the right to water from Article 21. It declared, ‘Water is a basic need for human survival and is part of the right to life and human rights embodied in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.  While the courts have unanimously endorsed a fundamental right to water, its implementation through policies and laws has not progressed as far. 


Despite the fact that the Parliament has approved numerous acts to combat water pollution, there is still a pressing need to protect our streams, reservoirs, rivers, and lakes. Water projects have the potential to make a significant difference in the lives of disadvantaged people, especially rural women, and small farmers. Governments play an essential role in rural development and resource management, and they will continue to do so in the future. Governments establish the legal, legislative, and institutional frameworks that govern the management of water resources and the economic and social development of rural communities.

In the last couple of decades, a more concerted attempt has been made to change water law. This is based on a relatively narrow set of ideas intended to guide the evolution of water law in general. This is intended to make water legislation more pertinent for the issues that the water industry faces in the twenty-first century.


  1. http://jalshakti-dowr.gov.in/policies-guideline/policies/national-water-policy
  2. https://indiankanoon.org
  3. http://www.legalservicesindia.com/article/1865/Management-of-Water-and-Water-Laws-In-India.html
  4. http://www.legalserviceindia.com/article/l420-Water-Management.html
  5. https://www.mondaq.com/india/waste-management/624836/environment-laws-in-india
  6. https://blog.ipleaders.in/water-laws/
  7. https://www.indiawaterportal.org/articles/policies-and-laws-related-water-bodies-water-pollution-and-regulation-collection
  8. https://vikaspedia.in/energy/policy-support/environment-1/water/acts-related-to-water-resources
  9. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/312525643_Water_Management_Problems_and_Challenges_in_India_An_Analytical_Review
  10. https://www.indiawaterportal.org/articles/policies-and-laws-related-water-bodies-water-pollution-and-regulation-collection

This article is written by Devraj Singh, a student of Christ University

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