I've told many audiences that California has the worst groundwater governance in the US (with Texas in a close second place), but India is surely on the short list for the worst governance in the world. (China is also on that list, but the Chinese government doesn't subsidize groundwater extraction as Indian state governments do.)
And so we have these two pieces of news:*
In Uttar Pradesh -- home to nearly 200 million (!) Indians -- groundwater levels are dropping dramatically, by 0.7 to 1.7m per year, for example. Unless something changes, "the entire state would have its ground water used to an extent of 80 per cent by 2014."
Meanwhile, the World Bank has, in principle, pledged $1 billion to move towards 24/7 water service in 10 Indian cities. Although assistance is linked to "levying user charges, installing metering system and creating a water management system," I wonder why the WB is necessary at all. A system that generates revenue can cover the operating and capital costs needed to reach 24/7 service.
Bottom Line: Water issues are local, and India can fix its issues with groundwater (by slowing withdrawals and ending subsidies for pumping) and urban water (by charging customers for use) without outside help or interference. It's a political problem, sure, but one caused by populist politicians promising painless prosperity to a population aParently preferring free water now+none tomorrow to cheap water forever.**
* I found these articles in the Aquanexus Daily Briefing. Subscriptions are $1200/year, but you can get a 20% discount for mentioning "aguanomics" if you subscribe through Rob before Dec 31. Along similar lines, you can subscribe to The Water Report for $250/year if you want to get more news about water in the Western US. [These are unpaid mentions, you decide if you want to subscribe; I don't get paid anything if you do.]
** sorry that I lapsed my alliteration; can anyone finish it?