Businesses, governments and global-level actors all gather data on water resources. However, serving different purposes, their accounting systems are rarely harmonized, which can lead to information asymmetries between different scales of governance, leading to a potential risk of mission drift and subsequent resource mismanagement and conflict. This is particularly important for implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

If we understand where misalignments and blind-spots exist between different actors’ accounting systems, we can take steps to improve the coverage and alignment of water reporting. This understanding can also foster effective goal-setting and action in sustainable water governance.

This report examines the current state of corporate and government water reporting in India. The research assessed the coverage of government water monitoring and common corporate water reporting frameworks in the country across a range of water sustainability dimensions: water use efficiency, infrastructure capacity, risk identification, pollution management, compliance with water-related regulation, and access to clean water and sanitation.

The analysis found significant misalignments and blind-spots in the way water sustainability was being conceptualized and measured by the Indian government, within corporate reporting frameworks, and across the SDGs. This is indicative of monitoring and reporting inefficiencies within India’s water economy and at worst suggest a lack of state and industry capacity to detect water-related impacts and act decisively to resolve them. Within this context, several dimensions of water sustainability are identified which require particular attention to improve reporting alignment between corporate and government levels and the SDGs. These are:

  1. Access to water: Measures of access to (clean) water and sanitation by local communities
  2. Compliance: Measures of compliance with, and disclosure against local, national, regional and international water legislation
  3. Infrastructure: Availability of infrastructure to provide (clean) water (efficiently/sustainably)

The report also assesses sustainability disclosures from India’s top 200 businesses against the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) water-related indicators. It reveals a chronic lack of water reporting across India’s major businesses, with the worst offenders in the services, utilities and manufacturing sectors.

The report offers recommendations to tackle India’s water dilemma going beyond technological fixes and short-term supply-side measures, and looks for opportunities for cooperation across scales to help harmonize India’s water accounting with the SDGs.