This paper by Carewater highlights the emerging groundwater pollution problems and the increasing incidences of aquifer contamination in the state of Gujarat and describes the drinking water problems arising because of the contamination of the Mahi Right Bank Command (MRBC) aquifer and the impact of this contamination on the water situation in the overlying Anand and Kheda districts.
The rural areas in these districts are mostly dependant on the Village Panchayat managed water supply system and a combination of private and government handpumps apart from regional piped water supply in some areas. The general lack of awareness of water quality allows the spread of water-borne diseases, especially during the monsoon season.
A combination of organisations, IWMI, FES and some medical organisations came together to assess the extent of biological contamination of well-water after heavy floods in July 2006 and create awareness among the users to follow proper treatment procedures
It was found that:
- Well water even from deep sources was highly contaminated till a period of a week after flooding.
- Although the current levels of nitrate studied from some samples taken just after monsoon and repeated 4 months later were below the safety limit in the deeper aquifer which was used for drinking water, Total dissolved Solids (TDS) and salinity were above potable limits with trend increasing towards the coast. The causes were attributed to inherent salinity and coastal sea-water intrusion.
- The contamination problems of groundwater distributed themselves in a different way among people due to existing social inequities. For eg. several handpumps used by rural communities had failed, therefore causing them to access poor quality water from open wells.
- The awareness for and practice of water treatment procedures also were highly variable, ranging from domestic Reverse Osmosis (RO) systems used by affluent urban communities and non-Resident Indian (NRI)-donated community based systems in rural communities to simple cloth based filtration prevalent widely in rural areas.
The study recommended that increased monitoring of the aquifer, spreading awareness among people and using proper water treatment procedures were urgently required in this area.