Groundwater use in Aurangabad – A survey and analysis of social significance and policy implications for a medium-sized Indian city by GW MATE and World Bank (2008)

Aurangabad, a city in central Maharashtra is in a drought prone region, and being a rapidly urbanising town, is facing a lot of pressure on ots water resources. Besides importing water there has been an increasing trend of ground water extraction.

In this context, a survey of groundwater use was conducted as part of a World Bank study on Indian groundwater management. The study was a collaboration between GW MATE(Groundwater Management Advisory Team) and GRASP (Grass Roots Action for Social Participation), an Aurangabad-based civil society organization working on community-based natural resource management.

The report begins with basic historical information on the city. In ancient times water was supplied to the city from man-made bunds. Also aquaducts, locally known as 'nahars' were constructed that could supply water to the city. The 'nahars' transferred captured surface water runoff from the hills. There are about 5 of the original 14, still supplying water to the city. After the 1972 drought, water began being supplied from the Jayakwadi Dam.

The report then highlights the groundwater conditions of the area. Describing the hydro-geological conditions, the report states that there is no uniformity in the occurrence, distribution and movement of groundwater. Groundwater in this basalt rock terrain occurs at at 580 metres below mean sea level. The general flow of the groundwater is southwest along the river Khan. Post monsoons the ground water is 6 metres below ground level. It is also noted that many residences have rainwater harvesting systems on their roofs.

The primary objective was to determine the role groundwater plays in urban water supply, and a minor objective was to conduct a preliminary appraisal of groundwater quantity and quality status. The researchers hoped that the study could be extrapolated to other towns, where private bore well drilling has increased as a response to poor municipal water supply.

The investigation methodology consisted of primary and secondary research. The criteria for field-survey areas was based on the existing ward-level data. Also it was ensured that sampling of stakeholders was proportional to the number of wells and not to the population.

There was a wide range of use of groundwater in residences and industrial units. It ranged from a mere 12% to 100%.  The average consumption by residences was found out to be between 0.32-0.35 Ml/a. It was also evident that piped water supply reduced groundwater extraction. Intensity of extraction was found out to be seasonal. There has been a decrease in purchasing of water from private water tankers as private bore wells have been dug.

The survey also does a financial analysis of the water supply. It finds that the capital investment on water well construction ranges between Rs 15-45,000. Electricity is the main operating expense. Aurangabad Municipal Corporation's operation and maintenance cost for this service is about Rs 7.20/m3 (US$ 0.16/m3). The report notes that the high number of private wells act as a deterrent in the municipality improving water supply, as costs may not be recovered.

The report concludes with a list of policy implications. A key one being that access to groundwater, its cost and and reliability will impact residential users ‘willingness to pay’ for improved municipal supply. This can influence the viability of investments in water supply and treatment.

Download the report here: