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Long-term groundwater storage in Ganga basin declining at 2.6 cm per year: Study

GS Paper 3

Syllabus: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation


Source: DTE

 Direction: The article highlights that groundwater in the Ganga basin has been declining. The article includes a best practice (infographics) of groundwater conservation in India.



  • According to new estimates, groundwater storage levels have been declining by 2.6 centimetres per year in the Ganga basin.
  • The impacts were more pronounced in Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi, with average storage declines of roughly 14 cm/year, 1, 7.5 cm/year and 7.2 cm year−1, respectively.




  • A recent Central Groundwater Board yearbook, which monitors groundwater levels four times a year, found that the water levels in 2021-2022 rose compared to the 2011-2020 average.
  • The Brahmaputra basin, which was not a part of the study, shows more groundwater level reduction than the Ganga and Indus basins.


Findings of the study:

  • The Ganga Basin’s aquifers are one of the largest reservoirs of groundwater in the world.
  • Researchers used three different methods to study long-term groundwater storage across six states.
    • Data between 1996 and 2017 from the Central Groundwater Board.
    • Data from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) – satellites launched in 2002 to assess Earth’s water reservoirs over land, ice and ocean.
    • A model to study groundwater dynamics and storage
  • All three analyses depicted that groundwater in the Ganga basin is declining. The new study included western Delhi, Haryana and Rajasthan under the Ganga basin.
  • Rajasthan, whose groundwater reserves contribute about 90% of the drinking water and 60% of the irrigation, is showing an improvement in groundwater levels in the recent past.


Impacted Regions:

  • Agriculturally intensive regions and urban areas (like Delhi and Agra) took the biggest hit.
  • Delhi and Haryana have high groundwater abstraction rates (Groundwater abstraction refers to the process of removing water from underground aquifers for various purposes such as irrigation, drinking water supply, industrial use, or for recharging depleted aquifers.)


Reasons highlighted by the WMO’s – first State of Global Water Resources 2021:

  • The worsening impact of climate change/global warming – more water flowing in the river channels due to glacial melt, however, total water storage declined in 2021.
  • Over-abstraction of groundwater for irrigation.


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Q. What are the salient features of the Jal Shakti Abhiyan launched by the Government of India for water conservation and water security? (UPSC 2020)