Geospatial technology for groundwater management – An article in Geospatial World

This article by Sangeeta Deogawanka in the Geospatial World deals with the issues related to the use of geospatial technology for groundwater management in the country. Core agencies of the government dealing with the management and development of groundwater resources identify and map hotspots of salinity, chloride, fluoride, arsenic, iron and nitrate in groundwater. However, most online information is of a generic nature, lacking detailed database or methodology used. On the whole a picture evolves of national bodies looking into the groundwater policy and potential zoning on a hegemonic model, with regional state-level groundwater departments.


The author discusses the role of self-funded organizations or NGOs working with foreign grants, self-styled crusaders and autonomous scientific institutes (National Institute of Hydrology) that are currently working in the groundwater sector in India. Barring SOES, ACWADAM, WOTR and some state government initiatives, the mapping is quite rudimentary, and in many cases outdated, in the country. There is little effort to engage community or hi-end geospatial technology. Any Geographical Information Systems (GIS) software used is under-utilized. Neither is geodata cross-referenced with satellite imagery and other data for suitable analysis. The focus has also been on thematic mapping, with few layers, rendering difficult or ineffective any statistical or mathematical probability modeling. 

Training and know-how on GIS dimensions for groundwater management are few and rare. Meanwhile, the picture is significantly changing with individual states like Gujarat, Rajasthan and Karnataka taking initiatives to map, monitor and geo-reference groundwater data for analysis and policy implementation. Initiatives by organizations like Arghyam in conjunction with ACWADAM and other institutes have resulted in mapping and monitoring of several villages and contentious zones for problem resolution.

The article calls for the need for shift from conventional mindset and practice thereof to a Software as a Service (SaaS) approach. At the helm, this calls for geospatial legislation with stringent policy implementation, both at the institutional and legal level. Mapping, monitoring and updating of spatial, vectoral and temporal groundwater database may be made mandatory at the state level. Legislation needs to address groundwater usage, especially commercial, while also monitoring agricultural regions for excess drawdown, salinity and leachates. Herein GIS can be successfully applied to effect increase in food productivity, using topographic data, satellite imagery, modeling and groundwater management technologies. 

Incentives offered by government for use of geospatial technology and application, development of apps and open data platforms to share groundwater data, is another area that needs to be looked into. Costs of both GPS devices and GIS software maybe subsidized for easy access to customized groundwater data and integration into workflow. A centralized groundwater databank with continually updated data layers, together with deployment of network licensing is a hitherto unexplored territory. However, there also needs to be a clear demarcation or definition for core or sensitive data that aligns with the future national open data policy. 

View the article in Geospatial World here





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