Time to regulate use of groundwater resources
By The New Indian Express
10th August 2012 12:36 AM
There’s little realisation of the dangers of over-exploiting groundwater resources. As the aquifers are not visible, they are not factored in most discussions on water conservation. The little water wars that are fought are all over rivers, ponds and tanks. An international study of aquifers and the groundwater footprint — the area of land sustained by extracted water — published in Nature suggests that the groundwater footprint is 3.5 times the size of the aquifers. It found that the heavily populated areas of Asia like India, China, Pakistan, the arid regions of West Asia and the US Corn Belt, including the California central valley, are the main villains of the piece.
The consumption of water is expected to increase by 20 per cent in the next 40 years by which period the world population would have increased to nine billion. By then many of the lakes, like the Dal Lake in Srinagar, the Sukhna Lake in Chandigarh and the freshwater lake at Sasthamcotta in Kerala, would have dried up. It would further increase the dependence on aquifers. This is not a figment of the imagination of scientists but a reality farmers in Punjab experience, when they have to dig deeper and deeper to get water.
The problem has been compounded by the fact that there has been little understanding of it. For instance, a farmer who owns a small plot of land believes that he has the right to install a heavy-duty water pump and take out as much groundwater as possible. In doing so, he is increasing the ratio between the size of the aquifer and the groundwater footprint at the cost of other landowners. What is true about farmers is equally true about countries. It calls for a global initiative to regulate withdrawal of groundwater and its conservation through artificially proven techniques that ensure faster recharge of aquifers. This is the minimum we must bequeath to posterity.
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