Groundwater in "Draft National Water Policy (2012)" of India
- In pursuance of the strategies identified in National Water Mission Document as well as deliberations in National Water Board, Ministry of Water Resources (Government of India) had initiated the process of reviewing the National Water Policy, 2002. Accordingly, the Drafting Committee on National Water Policy has evolved the draft policy after taking into consideration recommendations of various stake holders.
The draft National Water Policy (2012) of India can be downloaded at
The draft policy mentions the following specific issues related to groundwater.
* Climate change may also increase the sea levels. This may lead to salinity intrusion in ground water aquifers / surface waters and increased coastal inundation in coastal regions.
* Groundwater, though part of hydrological cycle and a community resource, is still perceived as an individual property and is exploited inequitably and without any consideration to its sustainability leading to its over-exploitation in several areas.
* Water needs to be managed as a community resource held, by the state, under public trust doctrine to achieve food security, livelihood, and equitable and sustainable development for all. The Indian Easements Act, 1882 may have to be modified accordingly in as much as it appears to give proprietary rights to a land owner on groundwater under his/her land.
* A portion of river flows should be kept aside to meet ecological needs ensuring that the low and high flow releases are proportional to the natural flow regime, including base flow contribution in the low flow season through regulated ground water use.
* There is a need to map the aquifers to know the quantum and quality of ground water resources (replenishable as well as non-replenishable) in the country. This may be periodically updated.
* Declining ground water levels in over-exploited areas need to be arrested by introducing improved technologies of water use, incentivizing efficient water use and encouraging community based management of aquifers. In addition, where necessary, artificial recharging projects should be undertaken so that extraction is less than the recharge. This would allow the aquifers to provide base flows to the surface system, and maintain ecology.
* Inter-basin transfers are not merely for increasing production but also for meeting basic human need and achieving equity and social justice. Inter-basin transfers of flood waters to recharge depleting ground waters in water stressed areas should be encouraged. If the transfer is from an open basin to a closed basin, increased water use is achieved. Such transfers need to be encouraged.
* At many places, seepage from irrigation canals in monsoon results in recharging underground storage enabling higher conjunctive ground water use in the low flow season and the advantages of such re-cycling may also be considered.
* There should be concurrent mechanism involving users for monitoring if the water use pattern is causing problems like unacceptable depletion or building up of ground waters, salinity, alkalinity or similar quality problems, etc., with a view to planning appropriate interventions.
* Quality conservation and improvements are even more important for ground waters, since cleaning up is very difficult. It needs to be ensured that industrial effluents, local cess pools, residues of fertilizers and chemicals, etc., do not reach the ground water.
* Rural areas with endemic ground water quality problems (such as fluoride or arsenic) may be supplied piped surface water. If ground water treatment is done through local systems, the problem of disposing the concentrates should be tackled adequately with due regards to environmental hazards. Another alternative is to improve the quality of ground water through dilution with good quality surface water, wherever feasible.
* Industries in water short regions may be allowed to either withdraw only the make up water or should have an obligation to return treated effluent to a specified standard back to the hydrologic system. Tendencies to unnecessarily use more water within the plant to avoid treatment or to pollute ground water need to be prevented.
The draft National Water Policy, 2012 shall remain open for comments till 29 February, 2012. Any comments can be posted at http://mowr.nic.in/nwp/ or mailed to nwp2012-mowr@... .