Providing safe and adequate drinking water for the entire rural population is one of the commitments of the government. According to National Sample Survey Organisation’s 69th Round Survey covering Household Conditions and Amenities in India for the period July 2012-December 2012, 88.5 per cent of the rural households have access to drinking water from protected sources. The 2011 Census reveals about 30.8 per cent of rural households have access to piped water from taps. But the Census shows that 22.10 per cent of rural population has to travel at least half-a-kilometre to fetch drinking water.

However, over-drawing of groundwater, drying up of wells and pollution of water have taken a toll on availability of water in habitations which were earlier fully covered. To ensure sustainable drinking water supply, the government has revamped the NRDWP with new and focused objectives.

1) Now, instead of coverage of habitations, the focus is on ensuring water at household level.

2) Focus on piped water supply rather than on hand pumps

3)  Enhancement of service levels for rural water supply from the norm of 40 lpcd to 55 lpcd for designing of systems;

4)  Greater  thrust on coverage of water quality affected habitations

5) Making available resources for operation and management of schemes

6) Conjoint approach between rural water supply and rural sanitation so as to achieve saturation of habitations with both these services

7) Move away from over-dependence on single source to multiple sources

8) Incentivizing states to hand over management of schemes to Panchayati Raj Institutions

9) Provision of separate funds for IEC & RD and other software activities

10) A new component water quality monitoring and surveillance was introduced 3 per cent of NRDWP funds allocated for the purpose

11) Move away from high cost treatment technologies for treating Arsenic and Fluoride contaminated water to cost effective ones

12) Promotion of simple-to-use technologies

13) Involving grassroot-level workers  for water quality testing

The Budget 2017-18 has proposed to give priority to villages that have become open defecation free for piped water supply. Besides, as part of a sub-mission of the NRDWP, it is proposed to provide safe drinking water to over 28,000 arsenic and fluoride affected habitations in the next four years.  

The Budget has allocated Rs 6,050 crore for NRDWP for 2017-18 against Rs 5,000 crore the previous year, though revised estimates stood at Rs 6,000 crore. Thus, though the increase in allocation might appear measly, addition of a matching amount by states would take the total to Rs 12,100 crore, which is substantial. As the government has plans to provide piped water to 90 per cent of the rural people in next five years, it needs to cough up Rs Rs 61,600 crore. Also, the ministry needs to rev up execution, as the performance of the scheme has been way below expectations: till December 2016, only 53.5 per centworks have been completed.  

As water is a scarce resource, to accomplish the targets of NRDWP, water conservation and augmentation through rainwater harvesting and water treatment should be encouraged. The government has accorded high priority to water conservation. Schemes such as the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana have been given shape to improve water use efficiency. However, without people’s participation this cannot be achieved.