Groundwater regulation based on the soil-moisture requirement, a much-needed paradigm change?

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With a decrease in the trend of rainfall, groundwater becomes the primary source of water. Most of the regions are overly dependent on it resulting in a consumption rate higher than its natural replenishable rate causing water tables to decline1. The decline in groundwater level in wells in India is estimated to be 61 percent between 2007 and 20172. According to a report by the Central ground water board, 89 percent of the wells in the state of Uttar Pradesh have shown a frightening rate of decline in groundwater levels in the last ten years3.

The alarming rate of decrease in groundwater levels has pressurized many government authorities and decision-making agencies to implement strict regulation in the extraction of groundwater. One of its kind has been implemented in Uttar Pradesh, where the farmers are allowed to pump water from the wells only for 20 minutes after which the user is charged, but most of the times the amount of water provided uncharged is not fulfilling the moisture demands of the soil4. The regulation on groundwater extraction should be based on the soil-moisture requirement rather than imposing a fixed time interval. The current groundwater regulation scheme is trapping farmers in a vicious cycle as they have to take financial loans to make necessary water for their land, but due to low yield, their incomes continue to decrease which may be the reason for an increased suicided rates in farmers. A total of 12,602 farming sector persons (8,007 farmers/cultivators; 4,595 agricultural laborers) has committed suicides during 2015, accounting for 9.4% of total suicides victims (1,33,623) in the country (National Crime Records Bureau statistics, 2015)5.

Groundwater legal regime should account for the spatial variability of aquifers and soil characteristics rather than the time-based one. As soil moisture requirement, aquifer depth and other influencing factors vary spatially, the regulations should also account for this variability. with the physical and chemical properties of soil, spatial computation of soil-moisture requirement would be beneficial to the government and other decision making agencies to impose groundwater regulations spatially. Satyukt Analytics, an expert in microwave remote sensing is capable of addressing this issue and we try to put the solution in the form of conclusions and recommendations at the upfront with supporting research behind the analysis.

  1. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/26736936_Satellite_Based_Estimates_of_Groundwater_Depletion_in_India
  2. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/water/in-some-places-you-have-to-dig-40-metres-down-to-access-groundwater-that-s-how-bad-it-is-60364
  3. https://www.firstpost.com/india/declining-ground-water-levels-add-to-the-woes-of-farmers-in-this-up-village-6155361.html
  4. https://www.firstpost.com/india/declining-ground-water-levels-add-to-the-woes-of-farmers-in-this-up-village-6155361.html
  5. National Crime Reports Bureau, ADSI Report Annual – 2015 Government of India. Retrieved from http://ncrb.nic.in/StatPublications/ADSI/ADSI2015/chapter A%20suicides%20in%20farming%20sector.pdf

About the author: Catherin Sebastian

The author is a research enthusiast, she has completed her M.Tech. in Remote Sensing and GIS, from NIT Warangal. Her expertise includes the application of microwave satellite remote sensing for providing the solutions in Water Resources and Agriculture.

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