India’s Water Problems

India’s Water ProblemsA new study this month is showing a lot of concern for Indians, and all of us who rely on products from India.

India’s use of water, especially for agricultural purposes, is pulling significant amounts of groundwater and creating a risk of serious water shortages in the future.

In a study published in Nature on August 13, researchers using data from NASA satelittes show that northwest India is depleting its groundwater supply in significant and concerning amounts. According to the authors: “During our study period of August 2002 to October 2008, groundwater depletion was equivalent to a net loss of 109 km3 of water, which is double the capacity of India’s largest surface-water reservoir.” This is also “almost triple the capacity of the largest man-made reservoir in the United States, Lake Mead.”

The researchers claim that the water depletion in northwest India is not due to less rainfall or other natural causes but that it is due to unsustainable usage for agriculture and other human purposes. The consequences are severe. Authors state: “If measures are not taken soon to ensure sustainable groundwater usage, the consequences for the 114,000,000 residents of the region may include a reduction of agricultural output and shortages of potable water, leading to extensive socioeconomic stresses.” In addition, those countries that rely on goods from this region may be stressed as well.

As reported by NewScientist, “Indian farmers now pump 60 per cent of their water from underground reserves beneath their land because irrigation canals are emptying the country’s rivers, says Colin Chartres, head of the International Water Management Institute, a non-profit research centre based in Colombo, Sri Lanka.”

What are the solutions to these problems?

According to Matthew Rodell, the lead author of the study, “If farmers shift away from water intensive crops, such as rice, and also implement more efficient irrigation methods, that would help.”

So, Indians need to grow less rice and grains and be more efficient with their irrigation systems. The first part of that seems like a hard transition to make. What is cheaper to grow than grains? Also, as reported in NewScientist, “To keep bellies full, India will have to double the amount of food it produces for a given amount of water.” The problem is clear. The answer is difficult to find.

Source: GO Media - Written by Zachary Shahan - Image credit: ~FreeBirD®~ via flickr under a Creative Commons license.