Creating a healthy future for underserved communities



India is undergoing the worst water crisis in its history. Over 600 million people, mostly from underserved rural communities, face high to extreme water stress. Providing water security to this massive population demands a radical departure from the status quo. What we need is an ecosystem approach towards water management. And that’s where One Water comes in.

‘One Water’ is the new strategic framework for the Tata Water Mission’s (TWM) water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) programme. By viewing this critical and increasingly endangered resource through a holistic lens, TWM’s One Water framework reimagines the way water is managed in the Mission’s intervention areas across the country.


A report by McKinsey and Water Resources Group warns that in a business-as-usual scenario, India’s water demand could reach twice the available supply by 2030. If this happens, ~40% of its population would have no access to drinking water by 2050, and the country would lose 6% of its GDP to water scarcity.

Rural India has had a complex historic relationship with water. On one hand, water is the lifeline of agriculture – a vocation that sustains billions of rural poor. At the same time, the cultivation of water-intensive crops like paddy and sugarcane, and the provision of free electricity to farmers by governments, means that 90% of India’s ground-water goes to agriculture. To illustrate, India uses 3-5 times the amount of crop irrigation water used by China, the US, and Israel.

This issue is compounded by low rates of greywater treatment and reuse (nearly 80% of water flows out as wastewater or greywater) and the low storage of rainwater (India captures just about eight percent of its annual rainfall).

India’s fragmented approach towards water management has also created inefficiencies, overlaps, and redundancies in water policies. As a result, the supply of water over the years has been falling worryingly short of the continuously-growing demand.

Realising this, the government is moving towards a new approach that sees water as a common pool resource that must be holistically managed. It is integrating the entire value chain of water – from source sustainability to final water supply – under a ‘One Water’ approach.

The Tata Water Mission’s One Water philosophy mirrors the same idea. It uses a community-centric approach to make villages and communities self-reliant for their drinking, domestic, irrigation and ecology-related water needs.

One Water will facilitate integrated planning and implementation of TWM’s programmes to provide safe, assured and adequate drinking water and improved sanitation and hygiene facilities to underserved rural communities.

Strategic Approach

In the last five years, the Tata Water Mission has touched over 4 million lives in over 5,000 villages of India. The mission’s interventions covered four core areas:

a) improving water quality through affordable and innovative technology interventions at the community and household levels,
b) ensuring access to water and promoting conservation for improving delivery at the household level, while promoting community institutions for ensuring the sustainability of water systems,
c) promoting improved sanitation and hygiene practices through behavioural change, and
d) building institutions by enhancing the knowledge of communities to ensure sustainability.

However, it was felt that sustainable availability of water can only be ensured by considering all aspects of water in a holistic way during designing and implementation. This paved the way for the One Water framework under the WASH theme of TWM.

One Water: implementation approach and five pillars
The implementation of One Water will follow a ‘first principles’ approach. TWM will gauge how much water is needed by communities and what for; how much water is available and in what forms; and how the requirement-availability gap can be bridged most effectively, efficiently, and sustainably.

In addition, the Trusts will focus on second-generation challenges in the sanitation sector through futuristic thinking and will network with like-minded organisations to enhance its footprint. It will also create innovative operational models to expand its reach. Influencing policy continues to be one of the core focus areas of the Trusts, and it will do this by working with the government at all levels.

The One Water approach has five pillars. Under each of these pillars, TWM will undertake interventions ranging from developing infrastructure to strengthening the capabilities of local institutions and building innovative solutions and changing behaviours at the community level.

Here are the five pillars.

Pillar 1: Restore and recharge water availability
The primary sources of water in rural India are groundwater and surface water sources like rivers, springs, ponds and lakes. The following are the main interventions that will be undertaken to restore, recharge, and replenish water availability:

  • groundwater recharge infrastructure (through rainwater conservation), adopting the participatory watershed or springshed development approach,
  • restoration, desilting, and capacity-enhancement of ponds and lakes, and
  • river-basin approach.

Pillar 2: Operate and maintain drinking water supply systems
The government’s flagship Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) aims to provide every rural household a functional household tap connection by 2024. This doesn’t just require proper management of water availability and infrastructure for plumbing and piping; it also necessitates training communities to own, operate and maintain these systems in a sustainable manner. Measurements of water supply efficiency, identification of leakages and reduction of non-revenue water to reduce wastage will be key focus areas.

Apart from this, the Tata Trusts will work to provide safe drinking water to institutional structures like WASH facilities in schools, Anganwadi centres and health facilities.

Pillar 3: Preserve and enhance water quality
Water quality is an important aspect of the Trusts’ overall water strategy. Portions of India’s groundwater resources are contaminated with impurities like iron, salinity, arsenic and fluoride, which make the water unfit for drinking and domestic consumption. Microbial contamination, another threat, is dynamic and its extent depends on the management of water till the point of use .

The acceptable quality of water needed for agricultural and industrial purposes may be less stringent, and hence water quality will be viewed in the context of its end use. The technology innovations would be a key focus area to identify affordable solutions acceptable to communities and to build a supply chain management ecosystem to ensure year-around availability of refilling for water purification.

Pillar 4: Reduce and reform water demand
Agriculture accounts for the bulk of water consumed in rural areas. Therefore, launching interventions to reduce demand for agricultural water is an integrated step towards increasing the water available for drinking and domestic use. Inculcating water conservation behaviours reduces domestic water wastage and instils a culture of valuing water resources in communities.

Under One Water, the main interventions to reduce and reform the demand for water will be:

  • promotion of water-efficient farming techniques,
  • transformation of domestic water conservation behaviours, and
  • collection and reuse of wastewater for both domestic and agriculture water.

Pillar 5: Ensure continuance of safe sanitation, hygiene and waste management, including menstrual waste
a) Sanitation: To sustain the gains made in sanitation and hygiene in India in the last five years, TWM will continue its behaviour-change initiatives to encourage toilet usage. Further, the Trusts will explore foraying into solid and liquid waste management. This could entail setting up entrepreneur-led systemic arrangements for solid waste management in peri-urban areas, small towns, and rural areas, and the subsequent treatment of greywater and its potential reuse

b) Menstrual hygiene management: TWM’s Menstrual Hygiene Management campaigns will continue promoting safe menstrual hygiene management (MHM) practices and help build a socio-cultural environment which helps women and girls to manage menstruation with dignity. Besides enhancing the scale of its outreach through direct and indirect interventions, TWM will explore opportunities to create entrepreneur-led networks for cloth pad production, create eco-friendly supply chains with reusable products, and promote research and development on proper waste management solutions for plastic sanitary waste.

In recent years, the Trusts have adopted Social Behavioural Change Communication (SBCC) as an integrated part of the programme design in its WASH programmes. A core pillar of the programme is mobilising the community so that it plays an active role in the project life-cycle of sustainable drinking water systems: from planning to implementation, operation, and maintenance.

From assessment to delivery and monitoring, the One Water framework will straddle the entire water value chain at the community level. It will mobilise resources, develop partnerships, and innovate technologies that enable rural communities to better manage their water. In the process, One Water will free millions more stakeholders across India from the shackles of water distress.

Social Behavioural Change Communication (SBCC) campaign

While infrastructure and technological advancements undoubtedly play crucial roles in narrowing the water accessibility gap, the success of water security projects hinges on both individual and community behaviour. To address this, the Tata Trusts have implemented a Social Behavioural Change Communication (SBCC) campaign – Samman Connection.

Successful SBCC campaigns don't rely on a single approach. Instead, they use a mix of channels like interpersonal communication, print and digital media, and educational programmes to spread key messages, raise awareness, and promote behavioural change. The campaigns are more effective when they consider local cultural and social norms. By tailoring messages to specific communities, they become more relatable and impactful.  Partnering with local organisations, schools, and community leaders is also key. This kind of collaboration helps campaigns reach the community directly, driving behavioural shifts at the grassroots level.

The Tata Trusts' Samman Connection taps into the universal truth that everyone wants to be respected and live a good life, irrespective of class, caste, age and gender. The multimedia, multi-lingual campaign encourages rural communities to take charge of their ‘sehat’ (health) and ‘samay’ (time) by using the convenient tap water connections now available in their homes. Launched in over 9 states in India, the campaign aims to put an end to women's drudgery and create a sustainable and healthy future for the communities we serve.

The Tata Trusts believe children are the best influencers and can be ambassadors to promote safe drinking water, in their homes, schools and villages. To empower these young advocates, the Trusts have developed unique communication materials under #SammanConnection.  These materials include a colourful comic book called Pani ke Rakshak, along with a video based on the comic, where kids and superheroes join forces to save the village from microbes contaminating their water and making them sick. The communication materials also include a set of attractive book labels with messages about safe drinking water. By promoting safe water habits, the campaign aims to keep children healthy and in school. This allows them to focus on their studies and pursue their dreams.

Check out all the videos and communication materials here.


Themes in this portfolio

Regions Covered in WaSH

Key highlights — WaSH

* Coverage upto March 2023
  • 14 states
  • 42 districts
  • 3,000 villages
  • 520,000 individuals
Gujarat +
Bihar +
Jharkhand +
Mizoram +
Maharashtra +
Punjab +
Nagaland +
Rajasthan +
Uttarakhand +
Karnataka +
Odisha +
Assam +
Uttar pradesh +
Andhra Pradesh +
Delhi +

Impact Stories


Mr Ratan Tata
Uma bharati
The Zilla Swachh Bharat Prerak Programme taps the potential and energy of India's youth in driving the vision that Swachh Bharat Mission encompasses — Mr Ratan Tata
I believe the contribution of these Zilla Swachh Bharat Preraks for the Swachh Bharat Mission will have a lasting impact in the years to come and help sustain the mission's positive impact on rural health and hygiene — Uma Bharati, Former Minister of Drinking Water and Sanitation