The groundwater level in 60 per cent tehsils of Maharashtra has depleted by a minimum of one metre, a Maharashtra government agency report said. The dip in the groundwater level would trigger a water crisis in these tehsils during the summer season, it said. “Of the 353 tehsils in Maharashtra, 218 have shown groundwater level depleting by at least one metre. A total of 5,166 villages in these tehsils would face water scarcity during the summer season,” a report released by the Groundwater Surveys and Development Agency (GSDA) said. The report is based on the readings taken at 3,920 observation wells across the state.
The agency monitors groundwater levels and the readings taken in the month of March are crucial since it helps in framing policies to tackle scarcity situation with necessary planning. A total of 2,130 villages in 72 tehsils, where there was a rainfall deficit in a range of 0-20 per cent in 2016, have shown groundwater depletion of more than one metre, said the report. Similarly, 1,854 villages in 113 tehsils which received excess rainfall during the monsoon have reported a minimum one metre depletion in groundwater levels, it said.
The report further mentioned that there are 325 villages in Maharashtra where the groundwater level has depleted more than three metres, which is considered as a worst situation. There are 857 villages where depletion is between two and three metres, the report said. Last year, 309 tehsils had reported a groundwater level depletion by at least one metre. Former associate professor (irrigation management) at Water and Land Management Institute (WALMI), Aurangabad, Pradeep Purandare, while attributing reasons for the dip in groundwater level, said, “The two possibilities are of farmers opting for water intensive crops and exploitation of resources by private companies supplying drinking water.”
Purandare, who is also the member of the Maharashtra government formed committee on Integrated State Water Plan said, “Farmers who opted for higher water intensive crops to increase their earnings must have put stress on groundwater level. “While in urban and semi-urban areas, the drinking water supply industry is heavily dependent on groundwater. There is no controlling or regulatory authority over such companies and the manner in which they are pumping out water is a cause of worry.”