The low intensity of rains across the state, especially in cities like Mumbai, may have led to consternation but Maharashtra faces a larger problem in the long run due to a decline in ground water levels, as observed from wells in the state. The Central Ground Water Board (CGWB), under the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development monitors water levels of designated water bodies including wells in various states, in an attempt to ensure sustainable development and management of ground water resources in the country.
Data from wells has shown that 70 per cent of the wells being monitored showed a decline in water levels in Maharashtra.
The study compared pre-monsoon water level data for 1,487 wells selected from across Maharashtra with the decadal mean between 2006-2015. This study indicated a decline in ground water levels in 70 per cent of the wells monitored. The national average of the decline in water level is around 66 per cent.
Ground water is primarily used for irrigation, drinking and industrial purposes. Due to growing urbanisation, industrialisation and population, ground water levels in various parts of the country are declining. Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) under the Ministry of Water Resources, RD & GR (River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation) carries out ground water monitoring four times a year on a regional scale through a network of observation wells.
The scarcity of drinking water in the country has occurred due to variation of rainfall, which has contributed to the depletion of ground water. The inadequate recharging of ground water, inappropriate cropping pattern and wasteful use of water accentuated the problem.
Maharashtra presently has 16,000 km of rivers and canals. It also has water bodies spread over 3.83 lakh hectares.
There has been severe over exploitation of water bodies in the state. The fourth Minor Irrigation Census conducted in 2006-07 said that there were over 21.5 lakh wells and borewells across Maharashtra. The number of such wells as per the first census was pegged at 5 lakh suggesting a four-fold increase in less than 30 years.
To tide over the problem, new rules were formulated under the Maharashtra Groundwater (Development and Management) Act 2009. The law has stringent provisions to check unregulated extraction of groundwater from areas where there is severe water scarcity.