Sustainable Groundwater Management in India-Challenges and Prospect


Gurkaranbir Singh



With growing scarcity of water and deteriorating quality, water resources management in India is becoming more challenging with the passage of time. However, the usable water resources of the country have been estimated as 1,123 billion cubic meters (BCM) per year. Out of which, the share of surface water and ground water is 690 BCM per year and 433 BCM per year respectively. Indian farmers are currently drawing more water than is sustainable, removing about 212 million megalitres from the ground each year to irrigate about 39 million hectares. However, India’s groundwater resources are under threat. Intensive and unregulated pumping has caused a rapid and widespread decline in groundwater levels. Between 1950 and 2010, the number of tube wells drilled increased from one million to nearly 30 million, representing an unprecedented scale of development. There is no reason to believe that the growth in the number of these structures (wells and tube wells) have slowed down since then. Bringing groundwater withdrawal in line with its recharge and promoting a more sustainable pattern of groundwater usage and agricultural production require taking concurrent action on several fronts viz. estimation of ground water resources i.e. mapping aquifers effectively for a complete assessment of ground water resources, cropping pattern needed to be diversified by providing better price support for pulses and oilseeds, over extraction of ground water should be curtailed by regulating the use of electricity needed for its extraction. Different stakeholders- state governments, utilities, and farmers urgently need to address the groundwater management through a set of politically and financially feasible and socially acceptable alternatives.