India’s agriculture very much depends on irrigation.
Photo: © Thejas Panarkandy/flickr

10.02.2017

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Excessive groundwater extraction for agriculture is widely blamed for India’s declining water table. However, a new study says that changes in rainfall patterns may be more responsible for groundwater depletion and suggests that India should adopt technologies for efficient groundwater use and improve recharge during the monsoons.

Changing rainfall patterns may be depleting India’s groundwater storage more than withdrawals for agricultural irrigation, says a new study published in January by Nature Geoscience. 

While India’s diminishing groundwater is widely attributed to over extraction, especially in the northern agricultural belts of Punjab and Haryana, the study holds decline in rainfall caused by the rise in the temperatures in the Indian Ocean — a major factor in monsoonal rainfall patterns over the Indo-Gangetic Plain —  to be a more important cause.

“This study adds another dimension to the existing water management framework. We need to consider not just the withdrawals but also the deposits in the system,” says Yoshihide Wada, co-author of the study and deputy director, Water Programme, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Austria.

Importantly, the study finds links between the rise in sea surface temperatures of the Indian Ocean and the declining monsoonal rainfall which the study’s lead author Vimal Mishra says may be linked to climate change, though this is yet to be scientifically proven.

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