Stressed Groundwater Resources in India: Basics Explained

The Dynamic Ground Water Resource Assessment Report,2023, for the entire country was released by the Ministry of Jal Shakti.


As per the assessment report contribution of ground water is nearly 62% in irrigation, 85% in rural water supply, and 50% in urban water supply.

The total annual groundwater recharge for the entire country is 449.08 billion cubic meters (BCM), marking an increase of 11.48 BCM compared to the previous year (2022) and annual groundwater extraction for the entire country is 241.34 BCM. 

      Out of the total 6553 assessment units in the country, 736 units have been categorized as ‘Over-exploited’. The stage of ground water extraction stands at 59.23%.

Among 6,553 assessment units (Blocks/Mandals/Talukas), 736 units (11.230k\ are ‘Over-exploited,’ extracting more than the annual recharge. 199 assessment units (3.04%) are ‘Critical’ with extraction levels between 90-100%, while 698 assessment units (10.650/o) are ‘Semi-critical’ (70-90% stage of groundwater extraction). The majority, 4,793 assessment units (73.140lo), are ‘Safe,’ with the stage of groundwater extraction below 700/0. Additionally, 1 27 assessment units (1.940/o) are ‘Saline’ due to brackish or saline groundwater in phreatic aquifers

The over-exploited assessment units are mostly concentrated in (i) the northwestern part of the country including parts of Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and Western Uttar Pradesh where even though the replenishable resources are abundant, there have been indiscriminate withdrawals of groundwater leading to over-exploitation; (ii) the western part of the country, particularly in parts of Rajasthan and Gujarat, where due to arid climate, groundwater recharge itself is limited, leading to stress on the resource and (iii) the southern part of peninsular India including parts of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, where due to inherent characteristics of crystalline aquifers, the groundwater availability is low.


Central Ground Water Authority(CGWB) for regulation of groundwater development in the country and compilation of a conceptual document titled “Master Plan for Artificial Recharge to Groundwater in India”, which envisages implementation of nearly 11 million Rain Water Harvesting and Artificial Recharge structures to augment the groundwater resources of the country.

Ministry of Jal Shakti has also circulated a Model Bill to all States/UTs to enable them to enact suitable legislation for the regulation of groundwater development, which includes the provision of rainwater harvesting.

CGWB has taken up the National Aquifer Mapping & Management Programme (NAQUIM), for mapping major aquifers, their characterization, and formulation of Aquifer Management Plans to ensure sustainability of the resources, prioritising Over-exploited, Critical and Semi-critical assessment units.

 Several State Governments are implementing watershed development programs, in which, groundwater conservation forms an integral part. Water conservation measures are also taken up as a part of the MGNREGA.

Ministry of Jal Shakti has launched ‘Jal Kranti Abhiyan’, aimed at consolidating water conservation and management initiatives in the country through a holistic and integrated approach involving all stakeholders.

Atal Bhujal Yojana, being implemented in April 2020, envisages improving groundwater management in identified water-stressed areas in parts of seven States in the country with emphasis on demand management and community participation.

Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY)-Har Khet Ko Pani (HKKP)- Ground Water Irrigation(GWI) envisages the creation of irrigation potential from groundwater in assessment units where there is sufficient scope for further future groundwater development.

Ministry of Jal Shakti, Government of India has embarked on the Jal Shakti Abhiyan in 2019. This initiative is characterized by the expeditious execution of five discerning interventions: water conservation and the harnessing of rainwater, revitalization of traditional and contemporary aquatic ecosystems, the recycling and replenishment of water, watershed development, and the deliberate augmentation of afforestation efforts.


With a view to conserving water for the future, the Prime Minister has launched a new initiative named Mission Amrit Sarovar on 24th April 2022.

The Mission is aimed at developing and rejuvenating 75 water bodies in each district of the country as a part of the celebration of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav. This Mission has been launched with a whole-of-government approach in which six Ministries /Departments namely- Dept of Rural Development, Department of Land Resources, Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Department of Water Resources, Ministry of Panchayati Raj, Ministry of Forest, Environment and Climate changes.


A NITI Aayog report says that India is suffering from the worst water crisis in its history with about 60 crore people facing high to extreme water stress and about two lakh people dying every year due to inadequate access to safe water. the report pointed out that with nearly 70 percent of water being contaminated, India is placed at 120th amongst 122 countries in the water quality index.

The report said 40 percent of the population will have no access to drinking water by 2030 and 21 cities, including New Delhi, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad will run out of groundwater by 2020, affecting 100 million people. According to the report, 52 percent of India’s agricultural area remains dependent on rainfall, so the future expansion of irrigation needs to be focused on last-mile efficiency.

India has 16% of the world’s population, but only 4% of its freshwater resources. Under the scheme of the Constitution, ‘Water’ is a State subject and the Union comes in only in the case of inter-state river waters. List II of the Seventh Schedule deals with subjects regarding which states have jurisdiction.

Stressed aquifers : sharp increase in the number of buildings has led to the large-scale depletion of groundwater rampantly groundwater is being tapped.

The need of the hour is amalgamation of joint efforts and related ministeries with horizontal and vertical integration.

Efforts like rooftop rainwater harvesting is considered a suitable solution: also to be supplemented by efforts like efficient water use in agriculture, implementing wastewater treatment systems, and raising awareness about water conservation at all levels of society.

To maintain the health of water resources, it is crucial to prioritize sustainable practices. This includes adopting eco-friendly farming techniques, promoting efficient irrigation systems, and reducing industrial pollution. Additionally, investing in research and technology to monitor water quality and identify emerging challenges can help in early detection and timely intervention. Sustainable, cost-effective, and easy solutions like filters are a no-brainer as well.



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