From 2019 to 2020, there has been an increment in the drying up of groundwater resources in India from 22% previously to 25.6%, due to over-exploitation.
India accounts for 16% of the world population, but our country has only 4% of the world’s freshwater resources. With changing weather patterns, groundwater depletion and overexploitation, along with simultaneous flood and drought situations, India is in a state of water crisis.
We are currently facing the biggest water crisis in history. In fact, it is deemed the centre of the global water and sanitation crisis. The problem being so big, that our lives, livelihoods, and futures hang in the balance. And it’s not a problem that can be easily resolved by water pumps, a purifier, and retail bottled water.
During the past decade, groundwater beneath the northern Indian states in the Indo-Gangetic plains has decreased rapidly. The plain occupies population of around 400 Millions. Now at risk of experiencing severe shortages of this vital resource are the millions of the inhabitants of those regions. Using NASA’s twin GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) satellites, scientists measured tiny shifts in the Earth’s gravitational field to determine the rate of groundwater change in India.
Beneath northern India’s irrigated fields of wheat, rice, and barley, and underneath it’s densely populated cities of Jaipur and New Delhi, the groundwater has been disappearing. It is being pumped and consumed by human activities, principally to irrigate cropland, faster than the aquifers can be replenished by natural processes.
Groundwater comes from the natural percolation of precipitation and other surface waters down through Earth’s soil and rock, accumulating in aquifers, cavities and layers of porous rock, gravel, sand, or clay. In some of these subterranean reservoirs, the water may be thousands to millions of years old; in others, water levels decline and rise again naturally each year.
Groundwater levels do not respond to changes in weather as rapidly as lakes, streams, and rivers do. So when groundwater is pumped for irrigation or other uses, recharge to the original levels can take months or years. Changes in underground water masses affect gravity enough to provide a signal, such that changes in gravity can be translated into a measurement of an equivalent change in water.
The northern Indian states have all of the aspects for groundwater depletion ranging from staggering population growth, rapid economic development to water-hungry farms, which account for about 95 percent of groundwater use in the region.
Located in the tropics, India has never faced such severe systemic water crises in history. This problem must be addressed at various levels and sectors across the country to be properly rectified. Some of the suggestions in my opinion to rectify the current water crisis situation are:
Use of micro-irrigation techniques like drip and sprinkler systems.
Increasing awareness among the general public.
Following proper procedures to conserve water in any way possible.
Development of community level water harvesting structures.
Employing agricultural practices such as planting crops that require less water, setting up irrigation systems without leakages, and developing farm-based water conservation structures is very important. This can aid in the protection of forests and development of horticulture.
Utilizing watershed development and monitoring groundwater usage by farmers.
Finally, at the centre and state level, development of a formal water policy is crucial. This will provide guidance to the administration and citizens for proper usage of surface water and groundwater. It is also necessary to create management strategies for interstate and trans-boundary rivers.
If not enough action is taken to solve this water crisis then large scale migration of people is imminent in the future.