India may soon be designated as a "water scarce nation", Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti said on Friday. Bharti said the rising demand, infrequent supply and misuse of water would bring India closer to such a situation.

The minister was addressing the World Sustainable Development Summit in New Delhi, where the government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding on water resources development and management with the European Union.

She said, "The holy rivers of India are getting exhausted of their natural ability to sustain themselves, due to pollution from various sources. The per capital water availability in India has been on a continuous decline, which has put our country in the water-stressed category, bringing it closer to the water scarce category." She said climate change would aggravate the situation further.

The European Commission's Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Commissioner, Karmenu Vella, said that while the MOU may not resolve all water-related issues, it was a "step in the right direction".

India has been facing several crises related to water shortage. Large parts of the country have been struck by severe droughts in the past few summers. The Supreme Court in May issued a wide-ranging order to reduce the distress the drought has caused to people living in one-third of India's districts. More recently, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have been locked in a bitter dispute over the sharing of water from the Cauvery river, with both states claiming they do not have enough supplies for their farmers to survive.