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From Groundwater Regulation to Integrated Water Management

The Biophysical Case

Veena Srinivasan ( and Sharachchandra Lele ( are with the Centre for Environment and Development at Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment, Bengaluru.

Groundwater over-exploitation poses a severe threat to food, water and livelihood security in India, but the approach to groundwater regulation has been guided by the simplistic prescription that to achieve sustainable use, pumping must be less than recharge. This article explains the hydrological cycle and the close relationship between groundwater and surface water, and argues that the conventional notion of sustainable groundwater use is fundamentally flawed. Groundwater, soil moisture and surface water are part of a single integrated resource, and cannot be regulated independent of each other. The solution is not sustainable use or the compartmentalisation of surface and groundwater but the fair and transparent reallocation of renewable freshwater resources.

This article has benefi ted from discussions with many colleagues, but we especially thank Himanshu Kulkarni, Vimal Mishra, Sekhar Muddu and Shrinivas Badiger. We are, however, responsible for any errors that remain. International Development Research Centre, Canada (Grant No 107086–001) funded primary research on ground and surface water connectivity, which underpins this analysis.

Updated On : 8th Aug, 2017


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