In a move described by officials as the first of its kind, groundwater reserves in the urban areas of Maharashtra will be measured, as directed by the Union Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.
A special state-level committee, comprising experts from the fields of water and soil management, agriculture and water resources, will monitor the progress of the assessment, which will be carried out from 2018, using the Groundwater Estimation Methodology 2015 (GEC 2015). The team is expected to submit a comprehensive report to the Union government by September 2018.
“Every three years, this exercise is undertaken on the state-level. However, this time, new guidelines and assessment techniques will be adopted,” Shekhar Gaikwad, director, Groundwater Survey and Development Agency (GSDA), Pune, told The Indian Express.
Information from this report will later be used to initiate long-term planning for the utilisation of groundwater resources, a crucial element in irrigation, cultivation and water supply. The data is critical in addressing water management schemes at times of inter-state disputes pertaining to water.
According to the assessment report of 2011, carried out using GEC 1997, a total of 33 districts, barring Mumbai and its suburbs, covering 1,505 watersheds, were verified. Of the 353 talukas that were surveyed in the state then, 10 talukas were found to be ‘over-exploited’ and two talukas fell under ‘critical category’, while 16 were considered to be in the ‘semi-critical category’. The latest assessment of replenishable groundwater reserves was conducted in March 2015.
The existing methodology comprises of measurement of groundwater recharge, ground water draft, allocation of groundwater resources for utilisation, quality of groundwater and forecasting potential groundwater recharge areas.
“This is for the first time that urban areas will be covered under this assessment and as it is becoming crucial element in town planning. Any change in the watershed will invariably have direct effect on the groundwater reserves,” said an official from GSDA.
The team has been additionally entrusted with integrating data related to surface water reserves, so that all-round planning in water management can be achieved.