The worsening water crisis in Gujarat - The Earth Institute

This post is based on a White Paper produced by the Columbia Water Center for the workshop ‘Strategies for Sustaining Water, Energy and Incomes in North Gujarat,’

It was the kick-off event of an ambitious project to find solutions to the groundwater crisis in Gujarat, funded by the PepsiCo Foundation. More details of the project will follow this overview post.

Gujarat and the Mehsana region, India Source: Columbia Water Center

For more than three decades, the farmers in Northern Gujarat State, in India, have produced abundant food crops, and have had a thriving dairy industry. In order to make that happen, they have been using once plentiful underground water resources.

Because local aquifers are being replenished more slowly than the water is being withdrawn, groundwater tables have been falling throughout the period, and the situation has become so serious that North Gujarat’s future agricultural success is now in jeopardy. The more the water table falls, the deeper the wells must be, and the more electricity is required to pump the water out – and the more the water table will fall.

Farmers are the first to suffer: they have to continually invest in deeper wells and more powerful pumps, and even with these investments, the water is less plentiful and of poorer quality.

The state government and the utility companies, for their part, have had to finance and generate increasing amounts of expensive electricity for pumping, which they provide to the farmers at a subsidized rate. While the state’s expenditures on energy have been rising steeply, the benefit to farmers has stagnated or even declined, because the amount of water they have access to has in fact decreased.

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