Business Line : Industry & Economy / Economy : PM favours strong laws to regulate groundwater use Terming groundwater a common resource, the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, on Tuesday advocated strong laws to regulate its extraction. He also favoured transparent and participatory pricing to prevent water misuse. â€œInadequate and sub-optimal pricing of power and water are promoting misuse of groundwater,â€ Dr Singh said, while inaugurating the three-day India Water Week, organised by the Ministry of Water Resources, here. Dr Singh termed the current institutional and legal structures that deal with water as â€œinadequate, fragmented and need urgent reformâ€, and said planning, development and management of water resources had to keep pace with current realities. STATE REGULATORS India, with around 17 per cent of the world's population but only 4 per cent of usable fresh water, is facing an acute scarcity. Expressing concern, the Prime Minister said the draft National Water Policy proposed to establish regulatory authorities in each State. Since there were limits to increasing supply as water was a finite source, Dr Singh said Governments must focus on increasing efficiency of use, especially in agriculture. â€œManagement of irrigation systems should move away from a narrow engineering-construction-centric approach to a more multi-disciplinary and participatory approach,â€ he said. Irrigation accounts for almost 60 per cent of groundwater usage in the country. Another area where the Prime Minister stressed on â€œparticipatory managementâ€ was in mapping the aquifers to obtain information on groundwater availability. â€œWe also need to promote participatory management of aquifers to ensure sustainable and equitable use and promoting cropping patterns which are aligned with the groundwater actually available,â€ he added. GROUNDWATER RECHARGE The Planning Commission Deputy Chairman, Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia, too, called for a shift from canals to sprinklers in agriculture. Since the cost of this would be high, he suggested pricing and rationing of water through a regulatory mechanism. Critical of current farming practices, he said â€œaround 80 per cent water used for agriculture is grossly wasteful. We should use technology to bring water to the fields.â€ Mr Ahluwalia also favoured groundwater recharge over large dams as â€œunderground storage is more economical than surface storage.â€ On river-linking, he said it was a complex issue with huge costs involved. Any decision on Himalayan rivers involved international consensus, but â€œrational allocation of water from within the country's river system that does not require international assentâ€ could be an option, he added.