The relationship between water and security is pronounced and acknowledged by all from international political leaders hydrologists.

“Next war will be fought over water, not politics”

-Boutros Boutros-Ghali  UN Secretary General in 1991

This finite commodity has a direct bearing on almost all sectors of economy in Pakistan. its importance is more than ordinary due to agriculture nature of the economy. South Asian scholar Anatol Lieven warns:

“Water shortages present the greatest future threat to the viability

of Pakistan as a state and society.”

The country is facing a grim situation, regarding its fast depleting water resources.


The major exploitable water resources of Pakistan are:

Surface Water

River Flows:  The main source of surface water are the flows of the Indus River and its tributaries major ones being Jhelum, Chanab, Ravi, Kabul. The rivers have a combined peak discharge in July and August, owing to monsoon rain and melting of Himalayan glaciers while floors are minimum during winters (November to February). Indus river alone provides 65% of total river flows why the share of Jhelum and Chenab is 16% and 19% respectively.

-Rainfall: Pakistan is one of the driest countries in the world with average rainfall less than 240 mm per year. About 70% of the annual rainfall occurs in the month of June to September rainfall is neither sufficient nor regular. A large part of rainfall either the reverie areas or flows into the sea without any economic benefit to the country.

-Hill Torrents: Torrent in the hilly areas of the country have not been developed to its full potential there are 14 distinguishable hill torrent areas in the four provinces with a total potential of 19 MAF. Almost 60% can be developed for crop production and offers opportunity develop to irrigate almost 6 million acres of cultural waste land in the hill Torrent areas.

GROUNDWATER: Groundwater in Pakistan, comes through two sources: used in groundwater aquifers and usable layers overlaying saline water. Most of the groundwater is resources exist in the Indus plain and are stored in alluvial deposits. The plain is blessed with extensive unconfined aquifer with a potential of about 50 MAF and is being exploited to about 40 MAF threatening to dry up the aquifers in the long term.

Ground water is extracted through dugwells, tubewells, springs and kareges. Due to over  exploitation,  ground water has gone down 1020 feet from 80 to 110 feet. New NASA Satellite data of the world’s underground aquifers  reveal the aquifer in the Indus basin is the second most strange in the world.


Water reservoir are at present arif 150 there are over 150 large and small dams and reservoirs in Pakistan over the height of 15 meters according to International Commission on large dams major dams and reservoirs are dam on Indus river

Tarbela Dam (on in Indus river; 148 High)

Mangla Dam on Jhelum river 138 m High

Mirani Dam on river

Hub Dam

Mirani Dam (on Dasht river)

Chashma Barrage

Guddu Barrage

Sukkur Barrage

Warsak Dam (on Kabul river)

USES OF WATER: Agriculture at least 93% of Pakistan’s dwindling water resources are allocated to Agricultural purpose leaving the rest for domestic and industrial uses

POWER GENERATION:  29% of Pakistan’s total power is generated through hydropower

Domestic uses: such as drinking sanitation etc


Asian Development Bank in 2014 pointed out

Pakistan’s water realities in star terms. Pakistan is one of the most water is stressed countries in the world, no far from being classified as water scarred with less than 1000 cubic meter per person per year.

Pakistan’s water capacity in the early 1950s was 5000 cubic meters per capita which has plummeted to less than 1500 cubic meters per capita today.

According to the International Monetary Fund Pakistan is already the third most water stressed country in the world. Data project in Pakistan water needs in the year 2025 tales a sobering story by that year. According to one study Pakistan’s total water availability will have barely changed from the current availability of 2036 billion cubic meters (BCM).

yet Pakistan total water demand in 2025 is projected to be almost 338 BCM

suggesting gape of 100 BCM this 100 BCM  will comprise almost two thirds of the entire Indus river system’s current annual average flow.

The causes of water scarcity are multidimensional these issues and their important facts are sometimes inevitable however most of these are avoidable under efficient reforms.

Climate change and global warming

 The most powerful accelerant of Pakistan’s water crisis Is global warming few areas of the world are suffering from the effects of climate change as much as the Himalayan mountains Himalayan mountains, snows and rain of which replenish the river Indus. Many of the glaciers are already  thinning up to a meter per year this rapid melting pattern- coupled with another consequences of global warming high intensity precipitation is expected to aggravate  river flooding. Once the glaciers have melted rivers flows are expected to decrease dramatically.

According to the World Bank it means and exacerbation problems of flooding and poor drainage in the Indus basin over the next 50 years followed by up to a terrifying 32  to 40% drop in river flows in 100 years time.


 Which 70% freshwater supplies concentrated in three monsoon months only one cannot over emphasize the importance of storage for the remaining 9 months supplies Pakistan’s storage capacity ideally recommended to hover around 1000 day  given its climate stands 8 a meager 30 day supply. Existing reservoir subject to “sedimentation” which has reduced the capacity. Tarbela has lost nearly 30% of its storage capacity since the late 1970s and now retains so little water that irrigation supplies are threatened Pakistan storages had lost 28% of capacity before the Mangla Dam was raised up to replenish it by around 15%.

Reduced holding capacity leads to floods, especially in summers due to snow melting and monsoon rains. The 2010 Mega Indus river floods affecting 21 million people according to the

World Reserve Resources Institute an estimated 715000 people in Pakistan are affected by floods each year resulting annual loss of almost one percent to the country’s GDP.

Over Dependency on Agriculture

Agricultural sector plays a key role in Pakistan’s economy accounted for 20.9 percent of the GDP in 2014-15, is source of lively hood for 43.5 % of rural population. The sector is highly dependent on the supply of irrigation water, consuming a whopping 93% of total water resources. Agricultural water shortages mean higher food costs, which is detrimental since  around 80% of Pakistan’s food requirements are met by its own production.  two of the countries cash crops rice and cane are highly water intensive.  Rice crop alone need 17 MAF of water – almost the entire supply of Kabul Jehlum or Chenab Rivers.

Sugar requires 7 times as much water as wheat.

Hindering  adequate water supply  reduces agricultural productivity and consequently the economy takes a hit despite consuming lion’s share of water agriculture contributes only 0.1%

Total tax.


Intensive irrigation schemes and poor drainage practices have cause water logging and salinity result as a result was expenses of the Nation’s fertile lands are too wet or salty to yield meaningful harvests.  Consequently, Pakistan has one of the lowest productivities per unit of water, in the world. Water logging and salinity effects 25% of irrigated land in Pakistan. These  phenomena have emerged as a consequence of seepage from aligned earthen canals,  inadequate provision of drainage as well as flat topography. Currently 114 MAF of sweet water is diverted for agricultural and other uses. Two thirds approximately 76 MAF is lost due to poor transmission and seepage in the canal system.


Pakistan is the 6th most populous country in the world with an estimated population of a 188.2 million people. With current projection growth estimates, the population will grow to over 210 billion by 2020 and 263 million by 2050. The increasing population places greater demands on water, giving way to local and regional conflicts over its availability and use. As population has surged, large volumes of water have been diverted up streams to Punjab from Indus river to satisfy soaring  demand, shrinking the ones Mighty Indus to a Canal in downstream then the situation is further aggravated by migratory flows, both within and into the country director, threatening the country’s stretched to the limit water supply.


The current status for status quo is characterized by waste due to poor infrastructure of irrigation systems. In addition to this same,  masses seem unaware of the concept of conservation. In urban areas emphasis is on supply side solutions and little effort is in the direction of demand reduction for water through conservation because water charges are so low those who get fight water feel free to waste and over use. In rural areas around quarter of the water delivered from irrigation is wasted from poor farming practices. Faisal Khan in his article “Water governance and corruption in Pakistan” blames this on “Varabandi” system of water management whereby each farmer has a specific day to irrigate his field. The quantity of used is irrelevant the farmer plays a flat fee. Since water is not priced based on the usage there is nothing to discourage waste and overuse.


The water dispute between India and Pakistan started soon after the partition in 1947. The Indus Water Treaty aimed to resolve the issues, however, over the years it too has failed to pacify the water conflict. During times of tension between the two countries India shuts off Pakistan’s water flow is it on April 1st 1948. The shut off timed with the sowing  of the wheat crop, affected 1.7 million acres of cultivated land, threatening the losses of about 1 million tons of wheat output. Likewise during monsoon Seasons India let the water flows into Pakistan rivers with leads to floods. India enjoys this advantage by virtue of being upper-riparian.

Additionally India has constructed dams on Jhelum and Chenab Kishanganga project and Baghliar project which have strained the flow to Pakistan. The controversy over Wullar Barrage also remains unsettled. Pakistan has reservations on the designs of other water projects including 1000 MW Pakal Dul and 120 MW Miyar on river Chenab. Asif Zardari also voiced these concerns in 2009 when he said,

“The water crisis in Pakistan is directly linked to relations with India.”


Though estimates vary it is safe to say that anywhere from 40 to 55 million Pakistanis  is do not have access to safe drinking water. In much of urban Pakistan water is contaminated and water borne disease is rife. Nationwide 630 children die each day from the water borne illness of diarrhea. The quality of surface as well as groundwater is threatened by increasing pollution owning to inadequate seaway image disposal systems and dumping of industrial and agricultural waste at present there are only five sewerage treatment plant in the country get even and cities with treatment facilities less than 30% of waste water is treated.


Ismail Serageldin The first chairperson of the global water partnership said,

“ If  wars of this century were fought over oil, the wars of the next century will be fought over water unless we change our approach to managing this precious and vital resource.”

The intensity of water shortage is undeniable. Thus it is necessary to take adequate steps for adequate development and management of water resources.

A three pronged approach is ideal to meet the growing scarcity of water needs.  The general approach involves:

Taping of existing unutilized resources.

management of water resources to achieve maximum production per unit of water used.

Better governance of water resources Institutions and infrastructure

Based on the above approach following steps can be taken the steps can be taken. The steps are grouped as short term, medium term and long term.


Awareness Campaigns: An extensive Social awareness campaign is required using mass media and village to village campaign of extension services, to develop, understanding of water conservation practices and efficient irrigation methods and practices to farmers.

-Improving conveyance efficiency:

Earthen improvement of dis tributaries and water courses with installation of concrete control structures should be undertaken to enhance conveyance efficiencies.

-Changes in cropping patterns and crop varieties:

There has been an induction of new seeds in the last decade however it is not feasible to promote seeds that need more water to mature. Also charge from high delta to low delta crops would give higher returns to farmers. Similarly growing drought and salt resistant crop varieties can be considered following India’s example.

-Regulation of groundwater:

To control over extraction of groundwater it must be regulated and properly priced through appropriate legislation and its implementation

-Identifying new water storage sites:

To tap surface water going to waste, identification of possible storage sites for small and large dams should be done.

-rejuvenation of depleting aquifers:

various artificial recharge measures should be tried, where aquifers depletion is a serious problem such as Pishin, Lora and Nari basin in Balochistan.

  • Medium term strategies (time frame- 3 to 7 years)

-Living of conveyance system such as canals minars distributaries to reduce water losses especially in saline ground water areas.

Construction of storage reservoirs to utilize water current by going to waste.

-High Efficiency Irrigation System such as drip irrigation method should be propagated. Drip Irrigation System was introduced in 2007 in Pakistan through a government initiative, however it needs to be embraced on a large scale even owing to its low cost and increased efficiency. As compared to conventional irrigation methods the system offers 20 to 100% more yield and water savings range from 40 to 70%.

-Conjunctive use methodologies to be developed to make use of saline groundwater extensively available in Pakistan.

-Watershed management should be undertaken to check heavy amount of sediment loads  brought in by feeding streams.

-Methods to control evaporation losses from open Reservoirs should be developed.

-despite heavy dependence on water for its economy the country lacks a national water policy.

Although water management is stressed in other policies such as vision 2025 and National Drinking Water Policy of 2001 a policy specifically to address Pakistan’s water issues across all dimensions should be devised.


-The fore casting mechanisms for floods and droughts should be strengthened.

-Construction of storage Dams wherever feasible should be rigorously followed on long-term basis.

-The mechanism of water distribution among previous and on the field in irrigated lands should be revised amicably.  This would require revisiting water Appropriations Act of 1991 to satisfy  all parties and cater  to changing needs.

Water tax is only 24% of annual maintenance and operating cost of this receivable are only 60%. Government should increase tax (Abiana) to discourage overuse. Pricing mechanism should be based on income levels to protect poor farmers and should not be uniform across crops.

A committee of senior officials should be formed over the implementation of all proposed strategies. The committee should ideally consist of representatives of Pakistan Council of Research and Water Resources (PCRWR) Federal Flood Commission, Pakistan Metrological Department Ministry of food Agriculture and Livestock and Provincial Representative of Irrigation Department..


As distinguished economist Dr. Kaisar Bengali points out a hybrid strategy needs to be undertaken with equal focus on “Techno centric approach of building Reservoir and lining canals and a “socio centric approach” of imparting awareness of the severity of water crisis to activate water conservation at every level.

“Pakistan cannot address its water crisis without a paradigm

shift in the way Pakistanis think about water management.”

-Dr. Kaisar Bengali