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Groundwater Management In India Under A Changing Climate

Congress: 2015
Author(s): Shadananan Nair (Kochi, India)


Keyword(s): Sub-theme 10: Management of water resources,
AbstractImpact of climate change on groundwater resources poses a serious threat to food and water security in India, as the dependency on groundwater increases with rising demands and depleting surface water resources. Groundwater resources in India contribute to nearly 80% of the agricultural production and domestic water supply in rural areas and about 50% of the urban and industrial uses. An in-depth analysis of the challenges faced by the groundwater becomes necessary in view of the demands in water associated with the fast rising population. Present study analyses the trends in rainfall, temperature and aridity, proneness to droughts, their impact on groundwater resources, and reviews the existing policies, strategies and management practices. Current availability and utilization of groundwater in different States, and the possible changes in an altered climate have been assessed. Data and reports from the national meteorological centre, various government departments and research institutions have been used for this. Study shows that the availability of groundwater in India is fast decreasing. Monsoons undergo wide inter-annual variations in relation to global anomalies and India is classified in the list of countries potentially threatened by desertification. Extremes in temperature and rainfall and change in rainfall seasonality affect the groundwater. Higher temperatures produce more evaporation from surface water bodies and also make the soil dry, reducing the recharging of underground resources. Rainfall is becoming highly seasonal in parts of western and southern parts of India. High seasonality allows wasteful runoff and reduces the duration of groundwater recharge. High intensity rainfall erodes topsoil, reducing the water holding and recharging capacity of the surface. Trends in rainfall in the dry zones increase dependency of groundwater for irrigation. Increase in the number of tube wells and deep bore-wells has been tremendous in such zones during the last few years. Changing frequency and intensity of cyclones increasingly salinates the coastal aquifers. Predicted change in sea level may add to this in future. Changes in the course of rivers as a result of flooding and sedimentation may lower the water table in the heavy rainfall regions. Melting rate of Himalayan glaciers has been accelerated in recent years, gradually leading to water crisis in entire northern parts of the country. Falling water availability leads to social issues such as migration, conflicts over allocation and pricing. Falling availability of reliable water leads to socio-economic issues such as worsening of water disputes, migration, pricing of water that is unaffordable to millions and large investments for the adaptation and mitigation. Present economic growth is likely to be haltered. Study reveals a sharp decline in groundwater availability in almost all parts of India. Remote sensing data shows that overextraction has resulted in water table depletion in north India by fivefold more than expected. Groundwater across north-western and south-eastern India drops by 4cm/year and more than 109 Km3 of groundwater disappeared in 4 years. Groundwater in more than one-third of the country is not drinkable. Increase in salinity and presence of high concentrations of fluoride, nitrate, iron, arsenic, total hardness and toxic metal ions have been noticed in large areas. Falling surface water availability leads to overextraction of groundwater. In most parts, there is no balance between groundwater extraction and recharge. According to the World Bank, by 2025, an estimated 60 per cent of ground water blocks in India will be in a critical condition because of indiscriminate exploitation and changing climate. India needs to resort to urgent measures to cope with changes in climate in its different parts, as providing adequate supply of food and water to the fast rising population is becoming a challenge and a large number of population is still below poverty line. India still has unused groundwater potential that can be sustainable utilized, ensuring proper recharging. India's preparedness for the effects of climate change is poor and India was too late to develop a climate policy. National polices including water policy and wetland policies are only guidelines and they lack information on the effective implementation. Though several initiatives have been started in the water sector as part of adaptation, they often fail in fulfilling objectives because of issues like lack of coordination of departments, weak and corrupt administrative mechanism, social issues and vested political interests. Vulnerable groups are often neglected in decision making and policy development. Projects lack transparency and accountability. India urgently needs appropriate policies and strategies and an efficient implementation mechanism to face the challenges in water sector. A mix of traditional, environment-friendly methods and modern technologies in water conservation and quality improvement could perform better. Suggestions for an appropriate water policy and climate change adaptation strategy have been provided. Central Water Commission (2010) Annual Report, Govt. of India, New Delhi. IWRS (2008) Five Decades of Water resources Development in India, IWRA, New Delhi. Ministry of Water Resources (2008) Water Resources Development in India 1947-1997 Govt. of India, New Delhi.
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