India is a land of 14 major and 44 medium rivers. The catchment area of each of the major river is 20,000 sq. km and above while that of medium rivers, is between 2000-20,000 sq. km. Also, there are 53 small rivers each with the catchment area of 2000 sq. km. These rivers receive their top-up from glaciers and rainwater. India receives an average rainfall of 4000 BCM (Billion Cubic Metre) every year from the rain. This is what we see as surface water. Then, there is some proportion of this surface water which gets absorbed and accumulated beneath the ground, called as groundwater.
Among all the available sources of water, mankind is majorly interested in groundwater, for his drinking and majorly, for its agricultural needs. From the statistics mentioned earlier, it may seem like our country has enough water to meet the demands of the population. But here are some eye-opening points.
- Groundwater level is declining by one meter every year. There were times when water can be found within 30 meters of ground level, but now, there are many areas where water is available only at 60 to 70 meters below the ground level.
- We are only using 18-20% of rainwater that is being received. Billions of cubic rainwaters go waste every year.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended the availability of 200 litres of water per person, per day, in Urban areas. But at present, every person is being supplied with 140 litres.
- Glaciers of the Himalayan region have been melting at an average rate of 131.4 square kilometres (50 square miles) per year
These are not very good numbers. The water quality and quantity are on the verge of depletion and is hinting towards an alarming situation.
Groundwater depletion & contamination in News
A recent article published in Hindustan Times, Mumbai edition (Apr 9, 2018), brought to light some of the current stats and situations to show how our country is under water crisis. It states, according to the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) reports, that 61% decline in groundwater levels in wells between 2007 and 2017 is due to excessive extraction of groundwater. Also, in another report, CGWB states that at least 276 districts of India have a high level of fluoride, 387 districts have nitrate above the safe level, and 86 districts have a high level of arsenic. Overexploitation of the groundwater through borewells and wells and inadequate measures for recharging groundwater, are believed to be the significant causes for such situation, as per hydrogeologist Himanshu Kulkarni, director, Advanced Centre for Water Resources Development and Management (ACWADAM).
The article mentions a study by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) stating that India is pumping out 245 billion cubic meters of groundwater for irrigation in 2011 which equates to 25% of the total groundwater withdrawn globally that year.
There are more reasons for such alarming situation.
The causes identified for high depleted levels of groundwater
While the unmanaged and unthoughtful use of water via groundwater resources is the major cause of low groundwater levels, there are other causes too that are contributing towards contaminating it:
- There has been an increase in gross irrigated crop area (6 million hectares or 215.6 million acres) to meet food demands of the increased population of our country, resulting in unchecked extraction of groundwater through borewells and wells.
- During a period of 25 years (1951-1976), India has lost 4.1 million hectares of forest area. The absence of trees has resulted in the surface water runoff, without being absorbed by the ground to replenish the aquifers.
- Due to rise in temperature, the worldwide global warming is leading to scanty rainfalls and drying up of natural water sources.
- The unchecked use of government’s subsidy policy on agricultural equipment, electricity for irrigation, on fertilizers, etc. has resulted in an unrestricted use of groundwater for irrigation purposes.
- The wrong agricultural practices such as cultivating more water-consuming crops in arid regions is putting unbearable pressure on groundwater reserves.
Recommended Solutions to prevent contamination and depletion of groundwater
A Supreme Court advocate and environment lawyer Sanjay Upadhyay stated that there is a lack of coordination between CGWB and state bodies in issuing clearances for digging out wells and borewells. Handling such matters can prove to be highly helpful in saving the overexploitation of groundwater levels. There is something more that can be done:
- Rainwater Harvesting
Rainwater harvesting is the biggest hope in this struggle for conserving valuable groundwater resources. Farmers and every household can install rainwater harvesting structures for collecting rainwater on the catchment areas (rooftops, gully-shaped cemented structures), filter them to remove impurities and dirt and then store the water in storage tanks. Along with harvesting rainwater, the farmers should be made aware of the borewell recharging structures & methods which is equally important in this mission of bringing back sustainable groundwater reserves. There are many initiatives being started by the government of India in this regard. States like Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh have been using various rainwater harvesting methods with a collaboration of Central, State, and local authorities and are way ahead in reaping the benefits than rest of the parts of India. Awareness is the key here. Everybody needs to understand the urgency of adopting these methods.
- Afforestation and building rain gardens
The usability of forests cannot be ignored for the conservation of groundwater. Though groups of people are taking the activities of planting trees, but it is not sufficient to cope up with the pace of damage. At the individual level too, those who can should work on building rain gardens where they can cultivate native shrubs, perennials, and flowering plants which can help in penetrating runoff rainwater into the soil.
- Check over industrial wastage pollution
If chemical industries become socially responsible and start following the mandatory norms regarding industrial chemical waste, we can prevent the contamination of groundwater. This will further prevent the lives of water organisms, crops being getting poisonous and eradicating diseases which are caused due to consumption of contaminated drinking water.
- Government intervention to keep a check on borewell permissions
There have been several cases when permissions for the construction of borewell were being issued without looking into the availability of the area. Stricter legal laws from the central authorities are required for eradicating such damaging activities. Also, the government should set up more monitoring units at the district level to keep check over the aquifer recharge status and measures.
Every year, the situation is getting worse, even after so many initiatives in place. The intensity of these groundwater conservation methods needs to be enhanced for quality and quantity.
Can Chaitanya RWH Products and Systems help you?
It is very important to carry out a feasibility study of an area before investing into the installation of rainwater harvesting solutions. Chaitanya has helped hundreds of its customers with rainwater harvesting services that give a detailed survey report so that there can be no over-exploitation of the groundwater resources. Post-survey, the company can also be approached for various rainwater harvesting products such as drainage gutter, rainwater harvesting filters, gravel for RWH systems, etc.