Present Situation of Drinking Water in Pakistan

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Present situation OF DRINKING WATER in pakistan

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      Currently over 65 percent of Pakistan’s population is considered to have access to safe drinking water.  Huge disparities, however, exist with regard to drinking water coverage between urban and rural areas and provinces/regions.  The quality of the drinking water supply is also poor, with bacterial contamination, arsenic, fluoride and nitrate being the parameters of major concern.  Sustainability of the existing water supply systems is also a major issue in the sector. 

  Inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene result in high incidence of water and sanitation related diseases in Pakistan, which in turn increase morbidity and mortality rates and pose a major threat to the survival and development of Pakistani children.  It has been estimated that water, sanitation and hygiene related diseases cost Pakistan economy about Rs.112 billion per year, over Rs.300 million a day, in terms of health costs and lost earning.  Out of this, the cost associated with diarrhea diseases alone is estimated to range from Rs.55 to Rs.80 billion per year. 


       The main source of drinking water in Pakistan is the hand pump. Hand pumps and motor pumps together provide 65 per cent of household, drinking water. However, various surveys show that the usage of Hand pump is declining where as it is increasing in motor operated pumps both in urban and rural areas. Moreover, the percentage of households depending on lower water sources i.e. deep well, and others either remained unchanged or slightly decreased. Usage of tap water during 2004-05 and 2005-06 remained at the level of 34 percent, Khyber Pakhtoonkhawah province had the best water supply of 47 percent in 2005-06 compared to 44 percent in 2004-05 amongst the provinces in terms of tap water. The vast majority of the population of Punjab (68 percent) has water either from hand pump or motor operated pump and only 5 percent of the population depends on a dug well or other sources ( river, canal or stream). Sindh has remained at almost the same level in terms of tap water (43 percent) in 2005-06 as compared to 44 percent in 2004-05. Balochistan province has shown increase in Tap water from 33 percent in 2004-05 to 36 percent in 2005-06, increase is more evident in rural areas (22 percent to 25 percent) in spite of the fact that in urban areas same has declined. The water supply situation in Khyber Pakhtoonkhawh (KPK) and Balochistan has improved as compared to 2004-05. In these two provinces, 32 and 60 percent of the rural population in 2005-06, as compared to 45 percent & 70 percent respectively in 2004-05, depend on water from a deep well or from river/canal/stream.

Richer households are substantially more likely to have piped water in their household. This relationship is strong in urban areas, but very weak in rural areas. On the other hand the use of deep wells and river/canal/stream is more likely for poor households. A small proportion of households pay for drinking water. Only 24 per cent of households pay for water in urban areas and 12 per cent in rural areas. Since 2004-05, paying segment of population kept increasing in rural and in urban areas.

       The 2005-06 Pakistan Social & Living Standards Measurement Survey (PSLM) recorded information on WHO installed water systems used by the household. It shows that households themselves are the largest single supplier of drinking water, having arranged their own supply in 57 per cent of cases. Provincial and local governments in the form of the LG&RDD, the PHED and other local government bodies, installed water supplies of some 35 percent of households. They installed 92 per cent of all piped water supplies; however the coverage of Local government was least important in Punjab and played the largest role in Balocistan. Households that depend on the poorest supplies also have to travel the furthest for the water. Some 8 percent of households whose drinking water comes from a river, canal, stream or pond travel zero to 0.5 km for the water. Comparing provinces, Punjab is favoured with the best access while Balochistan has the worst, with over half of the households depending on sources outside the home.


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Drinking water, as referred to in the Policy, means that the water used for domestic purposes including drinking, cooking, hygiene and other domestic uses.  The term “safe water” refers to the water complying with National Drinking Water Quality Standards.  Access means that at least 45 and 120 liter per capita per day of drinking water is available for rural and urban areas, respectively, within the house or at such a distance that the total time required for reaching the water source, collecting water and returning to home is not more than 30 minutes. 

goals and objectives

The overall goals of the National Drinking Water Policy is to improve the quality of life of people of Pakistan by reducing incidence of death and illness caused by water-borne diseases through ensuring provision of adequate quantity of safe drinking water to the entire population at an affordable cost and in an equitable, efficient and sustainable manner.  The objectives of the Policy are to:

Provide access to safe and sustainable drinking water supply to the entire population of Pakistan by 2025 ;

Ensure  protection and conservation of water resources;

Promote measures for treatment and safety of drinking water;

Encourage community participation and empowerment in planning, implementation, monitoring and operations and maintenance of water supply systems;

Promote cost effective and appropriate technological options for water supply systems;

Increase public awareness about water safety, safe hygiene practices and water conservation;

Enhance capacity of line ministries, departments, agencies and organizations at all levels in planning, implementation and monitoring of water supply programmes and sustainable operation & maintenance of water supply systems;               

Promote public-private-partnership for enhancing access of safe drinking water and sustainable operation & maintenance of water supply systems; and

Promote research and development for enhancing access, effectiveness and sustainability of water supply interventions; and

Promote Inter-sectoral collaboration to maximize the impacts of water supply interventions.


        The key Policy principles for implementation of the Policy are as follows:

Access to safe drinking water is the basic human right of every citizen and that it is the responsibility of the Government to ensure its provision to all citizens;

Water allocation for drinking purposes  is being given priority over other uses;

In order to ensure equitable access, special attention is being given to remove the existing disparities in coverage of safe drinking water and for addressing the needs of the poor and the vulnerable;

Recognizing the fact that women are the main providers of domestic water supply and maintainers of hygienic household environment, their participation in planning, implementation, monitoring and operation & maintenance of water supply systems is being encouraged; and

Responsibilities and resources have been delegated to local authorities to enable them discharge their assigned functions with regard to provision of safe water supply in accordance with Local Bodies Legislation.

Policy guidelines

Increasing Access

New drinking water supply systems are being established and existing systems have been rehabilitated and upgraded in urban as well as rural areas to ensure sustainable access of safe drinking water to the entire population of Pakistan.  In this regard, the Federal, Provincial and AJ&K Governments are being mobilized by providing additional financial resources;

With regard to enhancing the access to safe drinking water, priority is being accorded to un-served and under-served areas, both urban and rural, including Katchi Abadis and slums, disadvantaged areas, salty water zones and those areas where there is shortage of sweet water in underground aquifers;

All public “intermittent” water distribution system is being upgraded phase-wise through supply and demand management and rehabilitation to “continuous water” supply mode;

Sustainability of drinking water supply systems, including sustainability of the sources and infrastructure, is being promoted;

Adequate provisions for operation and maintenance of water supply systems have been ensured; and

Drinking water availability plans have been formulated for rural and urban areas.

Protection and Conservation of Water Resources

Measures have been taken to protect and conserve surface and groundwater resources as well as coastal waters in line with the provisions of the National Environment Policy and Pakistan Environmental Protection Act-1997;

Ambient water quality standards have been developed and enforced for classification of water resources on the basis of their uses and detailed assessments. Phased programmes for clean-up and protection of water resources used for drinking purposes have also been implemented in line with the standards; 

Rain-water-harvesting at household and local levels are being promoted to augment the municipal water supplies as well as for ground water recharge so as to promote sustainability of water sources;

Community management of local water resources and integrated management of water resources are being promoted;

Due consideration is being given to the adverse impacts of climate change in planning and development of drinking water supply systems;

Concept of groundwater for various uses is being regulated;

Environmental impact assessment is being undertaken for all water sector projects to ensure that they do not adversely impact the environment;

Recycling and re-use of water is being encouraged;

Existing water supply systems is being rehabilitated to reduce water losses and wastage;

Water metering is being encouraged to check  indiscriminate use of drinking water supplies; and

Water-saving plumbing equipment and water efficient techniques, devices and appliances are being promoted.

Coordinated Planning and Implementation

Sector-wise approach for planning and implementation is being promoted for water and sanitation sector;

Existing data collection systems such as Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement Survey, Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, Demographic and Health Survey and Population Census are being streamlined and strengthened to ensure availability of authentic information for assessment of the progress with regard to enhancing access to safe water as well as for decision making purposes; 

Drinking water sector management information system have been established at the Federal, Provincial and local levels;

In order to ensure effective utilization of resources and to maximize impacts, inter-sectoral approach has been promoted and implementation of the Policy is being coordinated and integrated with relevant national policies, especially Policies for sanitation, water, environment, health and education sectors;

Adequate allocations are being made for provision of drinking water supply facilities in educational institutions and health care facilities under the education and health sector programmes; and

In order to ensure inter and intra-sectoral coordination, a multi-stakeholder Water and Sanitation Coordination Committee has been established.  Similar committees are being established at the Provincial, District and local levels.


Pakistan Safe Drinking Water Act has been enacted to ensure compliance with the National Drinking Water Quality Standards and hold water supply institutions accountable to the general public;

The Drinking Water Quality Standards are being enforced throughout the country and agencies responsible for the provision of water supply to ensure the quality of water supplied by them conforms to these standards;

Water Conservation Act and relevant standards and guidelines are being enacted;

Standards for water-saving plumbing equipment and appliances are being enacted;  and

Legislation for regulation of groundwater exploitation is being enacted.

Drinking Water and Sanitation (under MDGs)

Provision of safe drinking water, adequate sanitation and personal hygiene are vital for the sustainable environmental conditions and reducing the incidence of diarrhea, malaria, trachoma, hepatitis A & B and morbidity levels. Not having access to water and sanitation is a deprivation that threatens life, destroys opportunity and undermines human dignity. Thus, investing in the provision of safe water supply is not only a development oriented strategy in itself, it can also yield other socio-economic benefits in terms of improved health status, quality of labour force and reduced burden-of-disease.  Following are some of the major achievements in the sector:-

Drinking water supply coverage increased from 65 percent (55 rural; 85 urban) to 67.3percent (56.3 rural; 87 urban), during 2005-07.

Sanitation and drainage coverage increased from 42 percent (30 rural; 65 urban) to 43.3 percent (31.3 rural ;63.3 urban) during 2005-07, as elaborated in the following figure:

Coverage of Drinking Water and Sanitation

Under “Clean Drinking Water Initiative (CDWI)’, costing Rs 495 million, one water purification plant (WPP) in each Tehsil of Pakistan, AJK, Gilgit-Baltistan, and FATA installed,

The second project called “Clean Drinking Water for All (CDWA)’ costing Rs 15 billion is under implementation to install one Water Purification Plant (WPP) in each Union Council of Pakistan, AJ&K, Gilgit-Baltistan, and FATA. Spadework including mechanism to implement has been completed. By June, 2007 Rs 6.5 million has been utilized under CDWA, further it shall be extended to village level where filtration plant shall be provided for clean drinking water.

Following are the key issues of the sectors:

Major issues facing the water supply sector are:

Absence of an integrated approach,

Sub-optimal use of water,

Inadequate storage capacity,

Extensive system losses,

Inadequate operation and maintenance and poor cost recovery,

Excessive groundwater pumping without recharge,

Unsafe disposal of wastewater,

Lack of private sector participation,

Inefficient institutional capacities,

Poor linkage among urban and rural water development projects,      

Water pollution including metal contamination generating public health hazards.

Inadequate water and sanitation services to the poor increase their living costs, lower their income earning potential, damage their well-being and make life riskier.

The majority of population in the country is exposed to hazards of drinking unsafe and polluted water and inadequate sanitation.

Continuing urbanization, growing populations and increasing industrialization have increased water consumption and correspondingly generating higher volumes of waste-water and solid-waste.

Most of the waste-water is not treated and the expansion of the urban water supply schemes without treatment facilities (at source) are threats to human health and natural environment.

Community Participation and Empowerment (WATER)

Participation of communities, especially women and children, in planning, implementation, monitoring, operations and maintenance of water supply systems are being encouraged to promote community ownership and empowerment as well as sustainability;

Every public sector project have special allocation for community mobilization;

Community mobilization units are being established in water supply related institutions;

 Special focus has been placed on gender training programs for the staff of water supply related institutions at all levels so that they are able to respond in a sensitive manner to the gender differentiated needs in the drinking water sector; 

Special efforts are being made to recruit and induct women in water supply related institutions and other relevant agencies to ensure that the needs of women are adequately addressed in design and operation & maintenance of water supply systems; and

Representation of women councilors in all review and decision making forums regarding drinking water supply at the District, Tehsil and Union Council levels have been ensured.

Public Awareness

Intensive information, education and communication campaigns are being developed and implemented to promote water safety, water conservation and safe hygiene practices. To this effect, a National Behavioral Change Communication Strategy has been formulated and implemented; and

Hygiene promotion is being made an integral component of all water supply programmes.

Public-Private Partnership

Private entrepreneurship and public-private partnerships for enhancing access to safe drinking water, operation and maintenance of water supply systems, resource mobilization and capacity development are being promoted.  The role of civil society organizations to support government’s efforts in this context are also be encouraged.


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