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Groundwater conservation in India

GS Paper 3

 Syllabus: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation


Source: TH


Context: Since groundwater consumption and the variability of monsoon rainfall are the two main factors influencing groundwater storage, climate change might pose new challenges for groundwater sustainability in India.



  • Groundwater is the water that seeps through rocks and soil and is stored beneath the ground. Aquifers are the rocks in which groundwater is stored.
  • The role of groundwater in human development becomes bigger in the face of water scarcity affecting about 2.7 billion people around the world.
  • Groundwater management is imperative to meet the UN-mandated SDG 6 of providing clean water and sanitation for all.


Groundwater situation in India:

  • Groundwater is India’s most used water resource, accounting for a quarter of total global groundwater extraction.
  • According to the 2021 CAG report, groundwater extraction in India has exceeded the recharge rate, threatening 80% of potable water over the next two decades.
  • About 95% of India’s groundwater was depleted between 2002 and 2022, mostly in north India due to increased groundwater pumping to meet crop irrigation needs.


Legal/constitutional/policy framework in India:

  • The Indian Easement Act, 1882: Does not establish groundwater ownership and rights clearly.
  • Article 21: The fundamental right to clean water is recognised under the right to life.
  • Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA): It is established by the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, to frame groundwater policies and programs.
  • Supreme Court:Public trust doctrine’ – Making groundwater a matter of private ownership would be unfair.
  • Govt schemes: Atal Bhujal Yojana, Jal Shakti Abhiyan, Aquifer Mapping and Management Programme, etc., are some of the initiatives for groundwater management.



  • Climate change (global warming will increase the frequency of hydroclimate extremes – floods and droughts) and unsustainable groundwater extraction.
    • The amount of rain (during the summer monsoon) will rise as the climate warms.
    • However, groundwater recovery may not be possible due to the expected rise in groundwater extraction for irrigation.
  • A warming climate will increase evapotranspiration – the process by which water moves from the land surface to the atmosphere via evaporation and transpiration.
  • The above factors will limit water availability for groundwater recovery.


Way ahead:

  • Restrict unsustainable groundwater use for irrigation, cracking down on illegal borewells.
  • Make irrigation more efficient to promote groundwater conservation.
  • Groundwater storage variations can be understood by satellite data [say, from NASA’s GRACE satellites] that help conservation efforts be planned appropriately.


Insta Links:

Groundwater exploitation and sinking land