India is the world’s highest user of groundwater. It consumes over a quarter of the global total – equivalent to 230 cubic kilometres per year. Groundwater from over 30 million access points supplies 85 per cent of drinking water in rural areas and 48 per cent of water requirements in urban areas. Most groundwater is used for irrigation, which accounts for 88 per cent of total groundwater usage. Groundwater is required for the daily needs of around 700 million Indians living in the country’s villages. An assessment of 6,607 groundwater units in 2011 found that 1,017 were “overexploited”, indicating the rate of groundwater extraction exceeded replenishment. Around one-third of all units in India were under stress. The World Bank predicts that by 2032, around 60 per cent of aquifers in the country will be in a critical state.
Groundwater resources in India are further deteriorating due to high levels of contamination, most prominently fluoride, arsenic and saline. Contamination and over-extraction are compounding problems, as over-exploitation causes a higher concentration of pollutants in groundwater resources. Regions with stressed aquifers are generally more susceptible to water quality problems. The socio-economic implications are severe in the long term, as groundwater problems are concentrated in provinces with large populations and high agricultural productivity. Groundwater is an essential component of India’s water security, not only due to of its predominance in drinking water and agricultural irrigation, but also because groundwater becomes a critical water resource during periods of surface water scarcity. As a “buffer” water resource, groundwater will be increasingly important as monsoon rainfall patterns become more unpredictable due to the effects of climate change. Groundwater depletion, as a result, has severe consequences on India’s water security, food security, health and the livelihoods of its population.
*Read the full article online at http://www.futuredirections.org.au/publication/indias-groundwater-crisis-consequences-unsustainable-pumping/