Until the 1940s, the irrigation and drinking water needs of India were met by rivers, ponds, lakes, dugwells, and rainwater sources. However, in the middle of the 20th century India continually faced two daunting challenges: providing food for an ever-growing population and decreasing the burden of highly prevalent water-borne diseases, including cholera, dysentery, and typhoid.

The 20-year study report on status of groundwater arsenic contamination in West Bengal by Jadavpur University, based on the analysis of water samples from tube wells in all 19 districts of West Bengal. Groundwater in nine highly affected districts had arsenic at concentrations of 300 lg/L and above.