Groundwater situation in urban India: overview, opportunities and challenges – a paper by CAREWATER

The paper by Carewater INREM Foundation on the groundwater situation in urban India provides an overview besides dealing with the opportunities and challenges. Groundwater plays a fundamental role in shaping the economic and social health of many urban centres of India. Fast growing and emerging urban centres are demanding water to achieve higher growth rates.  A national-level analysis of data on urban water supply reveals strong spatial variation in the dependence on groundwater.

In the peninsular and primarily hard rock regions, cities show high dependence (average around 80%) on external sources of water, whereas, the alluvial aquifer cities are more dependent on local groundwater (average 75%). The size of a city is also a strong indicator of how much surface water it can import. As city grows in population size, its dependence and also ‘say’ on imported water increases. Negotiating for external sources of water is difficult for the smaller towns, even though they are witnessing rapid growth and have to depend upon local water sources. In the regions where groundwater is over-exploited, urban centres are competing with irrigators for water.

A limit on growth for both irrigation and urban development can be imposed in the vulnerable areas based on the factors identified in the study. In addition, many of these locations are surrounded by high industrial polluting units which degrade the quality of groundwater apart from existing contamination. Proper treatment of urban wastewater for re-use in irrigation, industries and recharging of urban aquifers, is one of the options to manage such competing uses. In the context of possible inter-basin water transfers, water starved urban centers could attract the arriving water. The study and its methodology aim to provide a robust base for integrated water resources management.   

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Our thanks to Carewater for sharing these files with IWP.