India’s Groundwater Governance

Why in News?

  • This article discusses the present groundwater situation in India and various policy interventions regarding  groundwater conservation.


  • India, with nearly 18% of the world’s population, occupies about 2.4% of the total geographical area and consumes 4% of total water resources. 
  • As per a World Bank report, India with its rapidly growing economy and population is the largest groundwater user.
  • Groundwater is pivotal to India’s water security especially for India’s agriculture and drinking water security in rural and urban areas, meeting nearly 80% of the country’s drinking water and two-thirds of its irrigation needs. 
  • According to the Central Ground Water Board, with 230 billion metre cubes of groundwater drawn out each year for irrigating agriculture lands in India, many parts of the country are experiencing rapid depletion of groundwater.
  • The Union government is working to achieve the goal of sustainable groundwater management in collaboration with States and Union Territories. 

Policy Interventions:

  • To achieve sustainable groundwater management, administration has identified certain important deliverables that include,
  • A reduction in groundwater extraction to below 70%
  • Increasing the network of groundwater observation wells
  • Installing digital water level recorders for real-time monitoring
  • Periodic monitoring of groundwater quality
  • Aquifer mapping and data dissemination 
  • Better regulation of groundwater extraction by industries and 
  • Promotion of participatory groundwater management and periodic groundwater resource assessment.
  • In May 2019, Jal Shakti Ministry was created to give impetus to the management of water resources with special focus on demand and supply management. 
  • Jal Shakti Abhiyan was launched to transform Jan Shakti into Jal Shakti through asset creation, rainwater harvesting (‘Catch the Rain’ campaign) and extensive awareness campaign.

Scientific approach:

  • Initiatives such as Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABY) and the National Project on Aquifer Management (NAQUIM) have also been taken for the effective management and regulation of groundwater.
  • Atal Bhujal Yojana was launched by the Union government with World Bank assistance, for sustainable management of ground water resources with community participation.
  • It looks to inculcate behavioural change made possible by incentivisation. 
  • NAQUIM envisages the mapping of subsurface water bearing geological formations (aquifers) to help gather authentic data and enable informed decision-making. 
  • Around 24 lakh square kilometres of the country has been mapped from the available mappable area of nearly 25 lakh sq. km. 
  • Region-wise aquifer management plans are being prepared and shared with States.
  • Government is also increasing monitoring stations in India with a special focus on identifying high groundwater extracting industrial and urban clusters and groundwater stressed regions. 
  • Dynamic groundwater assessments are conducted annually by obtaining samples from fixed locations to check for the presence of heavy and trace metals.
  • A software called ‘India-Groundwater Resource Estimation System (IN-GRES)’, has been developed.
  • Comprehensive groundwater guidelines for regulation in various sectors were implemented in 2022. The Process of issuing a no-objection certificate was made transparent and time-bound using a web-based application. 
  • The findings of the groundwater assessment 2022 indicate a positive inclination in the management of groundwater.
  • There has been a 3% reduction in the number of ‘overexploited’ groundwater units and a 4% increase in the number of ‘safe’ category units as compared to 2017. 
  • There was an improvement in groundwater conditions in 909 units. 
  • There is a reduction in annual extraction (of about 9.53 billion cubic metres); the data for irrigation, industrial and domestic use, respectively, is 208.49 BCM, 3.64 BCM and 27.05 BCM.  Overall extraction saw a declining trend, of about 3.25% since 2017.

Way Forward:

  • Adequate groundwater resources are necessary for India as one of the fastest growing economies to manage anthropogenic pressures. 
  • Relevant steps must be taken to make India a water surplus nation and fulfil the objective of a key United Nations Sustainable Development Goal, of water for all.
  • Government could ensure source sustainability to provide safe drinking water to all rural households by 2024, under the Jal Jeevan Mission.
  • Groundwater resources must be managed with greater community participation with the help of various government agencies and non-governmental organisations.
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