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  • Writer's pictureDeepa Rao

Groundwater – understanding and protecting the invisible resource

Sources of water such as lakes and rivers offer passive recharge, or if rain falls during part of the year, some of it soaks into the ground and is stored there. While they are essential "one water," we call groundwater by a distinct name because it may be reached in different ways: it can be found almost anywhere at any time and is usually of good quality.

You will almost certainly find water under your feet if you have the means to drill a well. It takes a long time for groundwater to be impacted, even during droughts. It's like a safe, non-evaporating reservoir of water. And it's for this reason that it's so appealing for climate change adaptation and resilience.

According to the UN, by 2100, the Earth's population, which was roughly 8 billion in 2020, is predicted to have risen to 11 billion. Humans will have to figure out how to generate enough food without depleting the soil, water, or climate. This has been described as humanity's greatest challenge. Groundwater management that is sustainable is at the heart of the answer. It is critical to have a scientific understanding of groundwater and to manage it properly, because groundwater may help solve the problem if we use it responsibly and replenish it.

Groundwater, despite being submerged beneath the Earth's surface, plays a crucial role in the water cycle. Rivers, lakes, and wetlands are surface manifestations of groundwater that exchange flow with the groundwater reservoir that feeds them when they need water and removes part of their flow when there is plenty of surface water.

Many features on the Earth's surface are also controlled by groundwater. Because only drought-tolerant plants can thrive on dry hillsides and water-tolerant plants can live near streams, the depth of the water table is partly responsible for different plant species occupying different positions along the slopes from hill to valley. Caves and sinkholes are formed by the dissolution of carbonate rocks by flowing groundwater. Groundwater outflow creates oases in arid areas, which provide habitat for animals and plants.

Groundwater, which accounts for nearly 99% of the world's liquid freshwater, has the potential to provide countries with enormous social, economic, and environmental benefits and opportunities. Groundwater now provides half of the water withdrawn for household use by the global population, including drinking water for more than 90% of the rural population who do not have access to public or private water delivery systems, as well as about 25% of all agriculture water withdrawn.

However, because this natural resource is frequently misunderstood, it is underestimated, mishandled, and even abused, putting it at risk of depletion and pollution. The immense potential of groundwater and the need to manage it responsibly can no longer be neglected in the face of escalating water scarcity in many regions of the world.

Groundwater is an important source of water, as well as a critical storage element for climate change adaptation, as well as sustaining aquatic ecosystems and regulating river baseflow. Despite these remarkable facts, most people are unaware of groundwater because it is invisible. At the same time, water scarcity is becoming more prevalent, affecting around 2.7 billion people worldwide for at least one month each year. As surface water supply decreases as a result of human activities and climate change, groundwater dependency and pressure increase. We still don't know enough about the state of the world's groundwater supplies, and we don't manage aquifers well enough.

Human activities and climate change are putting increasing pressure on the world's invisible groundwater supplies. Our response to this pressure is frequently insufficient, owing to a lack of understanding of the importance of groundwater resources.

Groundwater is in danger:

Experts at Maithri opine that many of the world’s largest aquifers (groundwater reserves) are being depleted, according to modern scientific measurements. Streamflow can be reduced, springs or wetlands can dry up, vegetation can be lost, well water levels drop, and soil subsidence can occur as a result of depletion. Another hazard to groundwater is pollution caused by human activities, which results in the release of chemicals and pollutants into the subsurface. Groundwater quality is degraded by pollution, posing a threat to human and ecological health.

Groundwater, a large but scarce resource, will face increased demand as the human population expands. The need to better understand our groundwater systems and manage them within the restrictions of the hydrologic cycle is now more important than ever.

Most serious hazards or challenges to groundwater:

Because everyone with the means can use groundwater everywhere, there is a strong tendency to exploit it extensively, posing a risk of resource depletion. This is particularly evident in semi-arid regions, where irrigation is used extensively in agriculture. If you take too much of it, it loses its drought-proofing ability. There is a major difficulty if there is a drought.

Groundwater is also at risk of contamination due to agricultural fertiliser and pesticide use, as well as dumpsites and inadequate sanitation systems. Groundwater pollution is difficult to treat, especially for resistant or constant-load contaminants, therefore this issue may become increasingly more significant as time goes on. We must consider the chemicals in our products and how we can decrease their use to conserve groundwater, as well as how we can better recycle, protect waste sites, and plan our land use.

Groundwater should be protected:

We at Maithri, believe that water utilities and wastewater treatment plants have access to cutting-edge technology that makes infrastructure monitoring and management easier and more cost-effective. Groundwater monitoring and management are also aided by this technology, which includes Geographic Information Systems (GIS). GIS can aid in the analysis of drainage, soil conditions, and other groundwater data in groundwater management. GIS may also be used to track groundwater levels and identify potential recharging sites.

Groundwater has a concept known as “safe yield”. The amount of water that can be extracted from an aquifer is referred to as “safe yield”. Groundwater extraction that exceeds the safe yield increases the danger of water scarcity.

Each stakeholder in the use of groundwater has its own criteria and expectations. This clearly explains why they are at odds with one another. About amount, one sort of dispute may occur. For example, in areas where a well can be sunk deeper into the ground to acquire a larger volume of groundwater. Another person may be concerned about the quality of the groundwater extracted.

Our experts believe that coordinated management can address certain difficult, long-standing water quality and quantity issues, but the benefits will typically take years to manifest. Because groundwater depletion and degradation disproportionately affect poor rural areas, hence more rapid solutions are required. Maithri’s AWG (Atmospheric Water Generator) based product, MEGHDOOT produces pure and clean drinking water from the air, while allowing groundwater to recharge. We need more sustainable solutions like MEGHDOOT to protect our groundwater resources for a better and greener planet.

Groundwater, which is unseen beneath our feet, may not be the first water resource that springs to mind when discussing conflict, collaboration, and peace. However, as competition for freshwater grows, so does interest in safeguarding shared aquifers. Whatever the situation may be, the problem is that once groundwater is depleted, it will not be replaced anytime soon. This is one of the reasons why groundwater management is a critical issue that must be addressed through various processes and solutions. Our specialists continuously emphasise the importance of improving field monitoring and data analysis. Such actions, we believe, are well worth funding in order to avoid potential water conflicts and achieve water security. Also, women’s active participation in water diplomacy is essential for the long-term management of shared (ground) water resources, as well as peace and stability. In addition, decision-makers must consider the social and political implications.

At Maithri, we are transforming water accessibility for all globally with its innovative water-related technologies and solutions. With 100% water positive, there is zero reliance on available water resources and zero wastage of water. Our water solutions assure consistent high-quality water and help groundwater sources to recharge.

Speak with one of our experts now to learn more about our water-driven global initiatives.

Maithri Aquatech: ; +91 77022 91519 (WhatsApp)

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