Groundwater level is rapidly depleting in India
India has witnessed an unprecedented drought this year. Vegetable production in the country took a hit as a result of the drought that also caused many lives across India. The drought situation has changed in many parts of the country with the onset of monsoon. This is the right time for policy makers to analyze the pattern of water consumption in the country and draw plans to ensure availability of water to all people.
According to 2011 census data, about 53 percent of Indian population does not have drinking water facility near home. 18 percent still collect water from a source located more than 500 meters away in rural areas and 100 meters in urban areas.
According to the Indian Human Development Survey, one in four rural households walk more than half an hour to reach a water source. In urban areas, more than 20 % households walk more than half an hour for collecting water.
In Odisha, households walk more than 60 minutes to collect water followed by Madhya Pradesh (48), Karnataka (39), Chhattisgarh (39), and Maharashtra (36). More than 35 percent of the population walks 500 meters daily to a water source in Odisha, Jharkhand, and Madhya Pradesh.
As surface irrigation facilities are not available everywhere, groundwater usage in much high in India. About 230 cu km groundwater is being used in India every year. The level of groundwater is getting reduced every year due to over utilization.
Non-availability of groundwater makes people consume contaminated water in different parts of the country. More than half of the groundwater in India is contaminated according to a Central Groundwater Board.
The water bodies in 276 districts have high levels of fluoride, 387 districts have high levels of nitrates and the level of arsenic is high in 86 districts.
Excessive use of groundwater for the agricultural purpose has resulted in water level depletion. A comparison of groundwater levels of the agricultural states of Punjab and Haryana shows that the percentage of wells with water deeper than 20 m has increased 40% and 70 % in the states respectively.
It is estimated that every year India loses 73 million working days due to water-borne deceases. Water scarcity also results in low Human Development Index (HDI) and even prevents children from getting an education.
The Meteorological Department has estimated a more than average monsoon this year. If the authorities prepare long-term plans with due consideration to short-term needs, the issue of water scarcity and problems related with it can be solved.