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Groundwater Challenges
Resource well
Source: NGRI
Groundwater in India is a vital resource. More than 60% of irrigated agriculture and 85% of drinking water supplies are dependent on groundwater. India utilizes 61% of its annual replenishable ground water resource and is the largest user of groundwater in the world.
With the country experiencing a fast growing demand for groundwater, an increasing number of aquifers are reaching unsustainable levels of exploitation. About 26% of blocks are semi-critical, critical, or overexploited (CGWB, 2011, Dynamic groundwater resources of India). In addition to this, aquifers are depleting in the most populated and economically productive areas. This has serious implications on the sustainability of agriculture, long-term food security and water security, livelihoods, and economic growth.
On the other hand, there are places where groundwater is still underdeveloped with regard to its potential uses. This represents a potential for improving livelihoods.
There are deeper aquifers also, which contain vast quantities of water. They have yet been little studied. Some of these aquifers are static non renewable resources, whereas others get recharged annually or over longer periods. In some areas, there is ample scope for groundwater development from these deeper aquifers.
Besides these quantitative aspects, groundwater quality also represents a major challenge. It is impacted by both anthropogenic and geogenic contaminations. In some places, the aquifers have naturally high level of geogenic contaminants, such as arsenic, fluoride, and iron, which render them unsafe for usage. Excess application of chemical fertilisers, disposal of untreated organic and industrial wastes, excess pumping of ground water in the coastal tracts makes the aquifer system more vulnerable for contamination.
In view of these challenges, the need for precise mapping of aquifers and studying of aquifer-based activities at a large scale has become more pressing for improved and sustainable management of groundwater.