Water Contamination & Water Borne Diseases in India

India is a huge contrast in water availability and scarcity. There are places in India which have an abundance of water and also places like Rajasthan where availability of water is a major concern.

Towns and cities with ample water supply struggle to manage the water efficiently. Instances of water wasted in potholes and/or in surrounding areas and going un-used are not rare – while other parts of the country struggle with the reality of scarce clean drinking water.

Underlying this imbalance in water availability is the issue of water-borne diseases. Water contamination often occurs due to inadequate and incompetent management of resources as well as inflow of sewage into the source. This results in the spread of such diseases which are common cause of deaths.

The problem is sometimes aggravated due to the non – uniform distribution of rainfall. Individual practises also play an important role in determining the quality of water. Water quality is affected by both point and non – point sources of pollution.

These include sewage discharge, discharge from industries, run – off from agricultural fields and urban run – off. Water quality is also affected by floods and droughts and can also arise from lack of awareness and education among users.

In India, it is estimated that over one lakh people die of water-borne diseases annually. It is reported that groundwater in one-third of India’s 600 districts is not fit for drinking as the concentration of fluoride, iron, salinity and arsenic exceeds the tolerance levels. About 65 million people have been suffering from fluorosis, a crippling disease due to high amount of fluoride and five million are suffering from arsenicosis in West Bengal due to high amount of arsenic (4).

A World Resources Report says: about 70 per cent of India’s water supply is seriously polluted with sewage effluents. The UN reported that India’s water quality is poor – it ranks 120th among the 122 nations in terms of quality of water available to its citizens (5).

Water-borne diseases like cholera, gastroenteritis, diarrhoea erupt every year during summer and rainy seasons in India due to poor quality drinking water supply and sanitation.


The 3 most dangerous water related diseases that occur in India are:

1. Cholera

Cholera is a water related disease, and is diarrhoeal in nature. It can kill in hours if left unattended. Cholera strikes when one ingests water that is infested with the Vibrio Cholerae bacterium.

2. Diarrhoea

Diarrhoeal infection is spread through food and drinking water that has been contaminated. A diarrhoeal attack can last up to 2 weeks and leave the person completely dehydrated.

3. Typhoid

Fluctuating high fever, exhaustion, sleepiness, diarrhoea etc are the signs of typhoid. The infection spreads through contaminated food and water or through close contact with an infected person.


So far water-related diseases have plagued many Indians. The health burden of poor water quality is enormous. It is estimated that around 37.7 million Indians are affected by water-borne diseases annually, 1.5 million children are estimated to die of diarrhoea alone and 73 million working days are lost due to water-borne disease each year. The resulting economic burden is estimated at $ 600 million a year (6).

Availability of fresh and good quality drinking water to all Indians is a major concern.


This information has been provided by Eureka Forbes and the following sources:

(1) What percentage of the human body is composed of water? Jeffrey Utz, M.D., The MadSci Network
(2) “Healthy Water Living”. BBC. Retrieved 2007-02-01
(3) http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2013/11/25/247212488/born-wet-human-babies-are-75-percent-water-then-comes-drying
(4) http://www.deccanherald.com/content/63740/poor-water-quality-serious-threat.html
(5) http://www.deccanherald.com/content/63740/poor-water-quality-serious-threat.html
(6) http://www.wateraid.org/~/media/Publications/drinking-water-quality-rural-india.pdf