Towards better management of ground water resources in India

This paper by CGWB on effective management of available ground water resources calls for an integrated approach, combining both supply side and demand side measures. Says that urgent action is needed to augment the ground water in the water stressed areas. However, focus on development activities must be balanced by management mechanisms to achieve a sustainable utilization of ground water resources.

Groundwater is the most preferred source of water in various user sectors in India on account of its near universal availability, dependability and low capital cost. The increasing dependence on ground water as a reliable source of water has resulted in indiscriminate extraction in various parts of the country without due regard to the recharging capacities of aquifers and other environmental factors. On the other hand, there are areas in the country, where ground water development is sub-optimal in spite of the availability of sufficient resources, and canal command areas suffering from problems of water logging and soil salinity due to the gradual rise in ground water levels. As per the latest assessment, the annual replenishable ground water resource of country has been estimated as 433 billion cubic meter (bcm), out of which 399 bcm is considered to be available for development for various uses. The irrigation sector remains the major consumer of ground water, accounting for 92% of its annual withdrawal. The development of ground water in the country is highly uneven and shows considerable variations from place to place. Though the overall stage of ground water development is about 58%, the average stage of ground water development in North Western Plain States is much higher (98%) when compared to the Eastern Plain States (43%) and Central Plain States (42%). Management of ground water resources in the Indian context is an extremely complex proposition. The highly uneven distribution and its utilization make it impossible to have single management strategy for the country as a whole. Any strategy for scientific management of ground water resources should involve a combination of supply side and demand side measures depending on the regional setting.