National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP)

March 17, 2018




The NRDWP was started in 2009, with a major emphasis on ensuring sustainability (source) of water availability in terms of potability, adequacy, convenience, affordability and equity.

NRDWP is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme with 50.50 fund sharing between the Centre and the States.

Ministry: Ministry of Rural Development




  1. The scheme aims at providing every person in rural India with adequate safe water for drinking, cooking and other domestic basic needs on a sustainable basis.

  2. Safe water is to be readily and conveniently accessible at all times and in all situations and therefore, the scheme focuses on the creation of the infrastructure.

  3. This has resulted in in the provision of significant additional resources to the sector and for the development of infrastructure and capacities for the successful operation of drinking water supply schemes in rural areas.


Historically, drinking water supply in the rural areas in India has been outside the government's sphere of influence. Community-managed open wells, private wells, ponds and small-scale irrigation reservoirs have often been the main traditional sources of rural drinking water. The Government of India’s effective role in the rural drinking water supply sector only started in 1970s. 

The government's approach towards ensuring availability of rural drinking water in India has been divided into 4 phases:


Swajaldhara project:

It''s a scheme that aims at people''s involvement in the management of an extremely essential and very often, scarce resource -- water. Swajaldhara, the Union ministry of rural development''s project which seeks people''s participation in the management of their water supply was launched by Prime Minister Vajpayee in 2002



The RWS norms and guidelines needed to be flexible and broad-based for facilitating the community for planning RWS projects based on the principle of demand responsive planning rather than adoption of universal norms and standards.

Based on these considerations, the ARWSP has been modified as National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) for the Eleventh Plan period.



Ethical principles based upon which everyone has a right to free access to drinking water:

  1. Water is a public good and every person has the right to demand drinking water.

  2. It is the lifeline activity of the Government to ensure that this basic need of the people is met.

  3. To increase economic productivity and improve public health, there is an urgent need to immediately enhance access to safe and adequate drinking water and Government should give highest priority to the meeting of this basic need for the most vulnerable and deprived sections of society.

  4. The ethic of fulfillment of drinking water needs to all should not be commercialized and denied to those who cannot afford to pay for such service.

  5. Drinking water supply cannot be left to the market forces alone. The importance of providing livelihood supply to all and its vital linkage with the health of the people must be recognized.

  6. As such, the emphasis is more on Public- Public Partnership (such as between Gram Panchayat and PHED for in-village distribution of drinking water) rather than commercialization of drinking water supply by private agencies. User charges of the water supply system should have an in-built component of cross-subsidy to ensure that the economically backward groups are not deprived of this basic minimum need.

Critical issues:

  1. In the RWS sector, sustainability of drinking water sources and systems are a major issue.

  2. As a consequence, ensuring availability of drinking water both in terms of adequacy and quality, on a sustainable basis, is the major challenge.

  3. Despite the impressive coverage of provision of safe drinking water facilities in the rural areas, there is considerable gap between the designed service level for which the infrastructure has been created and the service available at the household level.

  4. The issue of sustainability of source and system for ensuring supply of potable water are cited as the two major constraints in achieving the national goal of providing drinking water to all.

  5. Further, the programme has so far mainly been managed by the Government (except Swajaldhara projects), without active participation of the stakeholders.

  6. This has posed a hindrance to the development of more efficient and lower cost options for service delivery and also denied an opportunity to users to exercise their options as consumers to demand better service delivery.

  7. The levels of natural contaminants such as fluoride and arsenic and man-made chemical pollutants such as pesticides and insecticides are high in many areas.

  8. In the years to come, the rural water supply programme will face serious challenges by way of meeting the expanding needs of a fast growing population, increasing demand for higher service levels accompanied by rapid depletion of fresh water availability due to climate change.

  9. Water quality is impacted due to ground water table falling due to excessive drawals.

  10. Factors which have contributed to the rapid deterioration of the water supply facilities resulting in non availability of the designed service are:

    1. Over dependence on ground water and depletion of ground water levels which also increases the incidence of quality problems;

    2. Sources going dry leading to systems becoming defunct due to competing demands of ground water from other sectors, poor recharge, large scale deforestation and lack of protection of catchment areas, heavy emphasis on creation of new infrastructure but poor attention to the maintenance of existing systems;

    3. Poor ownership of water supply systems and sources by the rural community and poor operation and maintenance; neglect of traditional water sources, systems and management practices.

The programme: (See the picture below)



In news: (NOVEMBER 2017)

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has accorded its approval for continuation and restructuring of National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) to make it outcome-based, competitive and better monitored with increased focus on sustainability (functionality) of schemes to ensure good quality service delivery to the rural population. 


A sum of Rs. 23,050 crore has been approved for the programme for the Fourteenth Finance Commission (FFC) period 2017-18 to 2019-20.  The programme will cover all the Rural Population across the country. The restructuring will make the programme flexible, result-oriented, competitive, and will enable the Ministry towards to reach the goal of increasing coverage of sustainable Piped Water Supply.  






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