As per data provided in the 2022 National Compilation of Dynamic Ground Water Resources Assessment of India report, states like Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Gujarat registered a greater increase owing to government interventions. There are huge variations both in the extraction as well as recharge across states.
Groundwater is an invisible yet the most valuable resource on the planet. It is annually replenished, but its availability is not uniform across time and space. Any approach towards sustainable usage of groundwater pegs a realistic assessment of the patterns in the existing resources, utilization of those resources, and the projected availability for the future. Accordingly, the National Water Policy, of 2012 laid emphasis on the periodic assessment of groundwater resources on a scientific basis. A total of seven periodic assessments have been done since 2000.
In an earlier story on groundwater resources, we looked at the trends at an all-India level. In this part, the focus is to look at the performance of the states on various parameters of groundwater assessments.
Andhra Pradesh & Telangana register highest increase in annual groundwater recharge in last decade.
At an all-India level, the annual groundwater recharge in India has declined marginally from 447 billion cubic meters to 438 billion cubic meters (bcm). The state-level data on the annual groundwater recharge shows that states like Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Gujarat registered a greater increase, while states like Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and West Bengal registered a decline. The 2022 National Compilation of Dynamic Ground Water Resources Assessment of India report mentions that the increase in groundwater recharge in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana can be attributed to government interventions. Particularly for Telangana, the water conservation activities under Mission Kakatiya, improvement in surface water irrigation and drinking water supply under Mission Bhagiratha have led to a greater increase in the annual groundwater recharge.
The change in rainfall patterns and data, reduced recharge from ponds and tanks, increased groundwater irrigation and urbanization are among the common reasons behind the decline in annual groundwater recharge.
Ground water Recharge from “Other Sources” is dominant in States with history of growing water-intensive crops.
The Annual Replenishable Ground Water Resource originates is contributed by two major sources – Rainfall and various other sources encompassing canal seepage, return flow from irrigation, seepage from water bodies, and artificial recharge via water conservation structures. The recharge from rainfall, which includes both monsoon and non-monsoon periods, constitutes over 60% of the total annual groundwater replenishment for the country. The remaining 40% is attributed to “Other Sources”, such as canal seepage, return flow from irrigation, and recharge from tanks, ponds, and water conservation structures.
In 2022, states like Jharkhand, Kerala. Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal have more than 60% of the groundwater recharge from Rainfall. On the other hand, states like Punjab, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana present a contrasting picture, with “Other Sources” contributing to more than three-fifths of the annual groundwater recharge. Drastic improvement can be seen in states like Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, which have reversed their respective shares from rainfall and other sources between 2013 and 2022. It can be observed that the states that have a traditional history of growing more water-intensive crops have a greater share of groundwater recharge from “Other Sources”.
Stage of Extraction of ground water remains worrisome in Punjab, Rajasthan, and Haryana.
The stage of groundwater extraction is defined as the ratio between the existing gross groundwater extraction for all purposes and the annual extractable groundwater resources. At the level of assessment units, if the stage of extraction is below 70%, it is categorized as ‘Safe’, while 70-90% is categorized as ‘semi-critical’, 90-100% is categorized as ‘critical’ and anything above 100% is considered as ‘over-exploited’. The average stage of groundwater extraction for the country as a whole is around 60.1%.
However, the state-wise data on the stage of groundwater extraction offers a different picture. States like Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan have a very high stage of extraction. The share of assessment units in Punjab and Rajasthan that are ‘safe’ has reduced to a meager 12% in 2022, from almost 20% in 2013. In Haryana, only one-fourth of the total assessment units are classified as safe. Interestingly, these are among the states for whom the groundwater recharge from ‘Other Sources’ is high.
On the other hand, states like Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have improved the share of safe assessment units between 2013 and 2022. These are also the states that have a major share of groundwater recharge from ‘Other Sources.’
Groundwater extraction for industrial and domestic usage on a rise
At an all-India level, more than 80% of the groundwater extraction happens only for Irrigation. The overall extraction for irrigation increased from 212 bcm in 2004 to 228bcm in 2013. It had been declining since then, settling at 208 bcm in 2022. On the other hand, the extraction for industrial and domestic purposes cumulatively has been rising, from 18 bcm in 2004 to 31 bcm in 2022.
At a state level, there is no specific pattern in the annual extraction for either purpose. However, in states like Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, the extraction for irrigation has been rising consistently between 2013 and 2022, while for states like Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab have seen a decline in extraction for irrigation between 2017 and 2022. On the other hand, states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Bihar have seen consistent growth in extraction for industrial and domestic purposes from 2004 to 2022.
Telangana sees more than 150% increase in net groundwater availability for future use.
Groundwater is a valuable resource. Its effective utilization and preservation for future use remain an utmost priority for the governments. The water available for future use is obtained by deducting the allocation for domestic use and current extraction for Irrigation and Industrial uses from the Annual Extractable Ground Water Recharge.
Between 2017 and 2022, the net GW availability for future use at an all-India level grew by 9%. At the state level, Telangana has grown by more than 150%, followed by Gujarat with 53%, and Andhra Pradesh with 51%. Among the large states, Kerala, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal have registered a decline in the net GW availability for future use.