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Mains Test Series

India’s drainage system

Q. Do you think there is a need to remove the distinction between groundwater and surface water resources for effective conservation and management? (150 words)


Introduction: According to the NITI Aayog’s composite water management index, 75% of households in India do not have access to drinking water on their premises. This is despite having 4000km3 of water available through precipitation.

The separation of key bodies, such as the Central Water Commission and the Central Groundwater Commission, and separate programs for the development and augmentation of water resources is a bad policy that exacerbates the situation.   

Problems of Considering them Separate:

  1. Overuse of Groundwater: leading to the disappearance of aquifers, increasing the incidence of surface drought.
  2. Poor planning: In urban as well as rural areas, the scarcity of surface water is compensated by groundwater. Often, farmers use groundwater if they can’t access canal irrigation. But at the policy level, the authorities for managing both are separate!
  3. Pollution of one water source leads to the pollution of others due to their interconnectedness.
  4. Water Stress: According to the World Bank, by 2030, India’s per capita water availability might shrink to half, turning India into a water scarce country from the existing water stress category. There is a need to improve water availability.

Groundwater and surface water can be seen as interconnected:

  1. Ecologically, the groundwater and surface water are not divorced from each other and are part of a single watershed area. Surface aquifers occur where the groundwater table meets the surface. And percolation from the surface recharges the ground. Both are interdependent.Everything You Need To Know About India’s Drainage System Mains Test
  2. In the Legal sense: For example, in the Kaveri Interstate River dispute, the Supreme Court took groundwater resources into account to calculate the water deficit.
  3. Drought Resilience: Integrating groundwater resources into management strategy buffers against drought-like situations.
  4. Rainwater Harvesting: Rainwater harvesting could be done comprehensively through surface as well as groundwater recharge.
  5. Management of Evaporation losses: If only surface water management is done, it would be much higher, while it is miniscule for groundwater.
  6. Sustainable use: Over-extraction can lead to reduced water quality and depletion of underground reserves. Using the integrated helps to prevent excessive withdrawal and ensure sustainable use.
  7. Resource Availability: Integrated management ensures that when surface water is scarce, groundwater can be tapped to meet demands, preventing overreliance on one source and reducing the risk of water shortage.

Way forward:

  1. Integrated Planning and Policy: The Mihir Shah committee has recommended the unification of the Central Water Commission (CWC) and Central Groundwater Board (CGWB) by establishing the National Water Commission.
  2. Conserve groundwater to ensure the long-term sustainability of groundwater resources, especially in high-stress areas; Atal Bhujal Yojana is an excellent policy in this regard.
  3. Mapping of all surface and ground acquirers: The National Aquifer Mapping and Management Programme (NAQUIM) envisages the mapping of aquifers, their characterization and the development of an Aquifer Management plan to facilitate sustainable management of groundwater resources.


Given the emerging challenges of Climate Change, India needs to quickly adapt by adopting better policy and water management strategies. India’s umbrella schemes, such as Jal Shakti Abhiyan, River interlinking projects and Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana, must be aligned with the objectives of Atal Bhujal mission.

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