Water Bodies – First Census Report (Volume 1)


The Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga rejuvenation, Ministry of Jal Shakti released this first volume of the Water Bodies – First Census Report on April 25, 2023. Volume 1 gives an overview of the census with tables depicting all-India distribution of water bodies and their urban and rural division. Volume 2 provides state-wise details with each section focusing on an individual state and union territory.

The report states that India is shifting from being a country with an abundance of water to one facing water scarcity due to increasing population and urbanization. As such, an overview of available water resources in the country becomes crucial. Initially, the Department of Water Resources only monitored water bodies receiving central assistance. To rectify this limitation, the Committee recommended the creation of a comprehensive database. The first water bodies census was thus conducted alongside the 6th Minor Irrigation Census in 2018-19.

The census considers “all natural or man-made units bound on all sides with some or no masonry work used for storing water for irrigation or other purposes” as water bodies. Additionally, “a structure where water from ice-melt, streams, springs, rain or drainage of water from residential and other areas is accumulated or water is stored by diversion from a stream, nala or river” is also treated as a water body. The census aims to gather essential data which can aid in the implementation of schemes and water budgets as well as for planning local water security measures.

This 200-page first volume report contains four chapters: General Background (Chapter I); Methodology for water body census (Chapter II); Results and salient findings (Chapter III); and Statistical tables (Chapter IV). The report also has two appendices and some infographics.


  1. The census found that a majority (97.1 per cent) of the 2,424,540 surveyed water bodies were situated in rural areas with only 2.9 per cent in urban areas. Around 83.7 per cent (2,030,040) water bodies were operational, while the rest were non-functional due to construction, pollution or having dried up. The major water bodies in use were employed in pisciculture, irrigation or groundwater recharge.

  2. According to the census, West Bengal boasts the highest number of ponds and reservoirs followed by Jharkhand, Bihar and Odisha. Meanwhile Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Maharashtra are ahead in tanks, lakes, and water conservation schemes, respectively.

  3. The distribution of water bodies reveals that ponds constitute the largest portion, making up 59.5 per cent of the total. Tanks follow, accounting for 15.7 per cent of the water bodies. Additionally, 12.1 per cent bodies are reservoirs, while 9.3 per cent fall under the category of water conservation schemes, check dams, and percolation tanks. Lakes represent a smaller portion, constituting only 0.9 per cent of the total water bodies.

  4. More than half (55.2 per cent) of water bodies were privately owned and 44.8 per cent were under public ownership, the census notes. Around 62.4 per cent of public-owned water bodies were owned by Panchayats and 23 per cent by state Water Resource Departments.

  5. As per the census, 78 per cent of the surveyed water bodies were human-made, while 22 per cent were natural, indicating significant human intervention in water resource management. Among the man-made water bodies, 82.3 per cent were earthen, 9.6 per cent were concrete, and the remaining 8.1 per cent were of masonry and other materials.

  6. Of all the operational water bodies, roughly 88.6 per cent served the needs of a single city, town, or village. Around 10.6 per cent benefited 2-5 such areas, while the remaining 0.8 per cent supplied water to more than five cities, towns, or villages.

  7. A substantial 72.4 per cent of water bodies have spread areas of less than 0.5 hectares, suggesting a predominance of small-scale water resources. About half of the water bodies have a storage capacity ranging between 1,000 to 10,000 cubic meters, vital for meeting local water needs.

  8. The census reports that 1.6 per cent of the 2,424,540 water bodies had been encroached upon, with ponds being the most affected followed by tanks. A considerable majority (95.4 per cent) of encroachments were found in rural areas. Overall, 62.8 per cent of water bodies had less than 25 per cent of their area under encroachment. The census adds that Water User Associations had played a significant role in preventing encroachments.

  9. Approximately 45.2 per cent water bodies had never undergone repair. About 15.7 per cent were repaired before 2009, and 3.6 per cent were repaired after 2018. It's crucial to properly repair and maintain water bodies to ensure their optimal utilization. Among all water bodies that underwent repair, 62.9 per cent had a last repair/renovation cost of up to Rs. 50,000 and 21.7 per cent had a last repair cost between Rs. 50,000 to 1 lakh.

  10. As many as 9.5 per cent or 229,88 water bodies were incorporated into the State Irrigation Plan or District Irrigation Plan. Ponds accounted for the largest share among these at 37.6 per cent, followed by water conservation schemes/check dams (34.8 per cent) and tanks (23.7 per cent).

    Focus and factoids by Saismit Naik.


Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Ministry of Jal Shakti, Government of India


Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Ministry of Jal Shakti, Government of India


25 Apr, 2023