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Jal Shakti Ministry plans a network of groundwater sensors to monitor quality, contamination levels 

The Ministry of Jal Shakti is working on an ambitious plan to deploy a vast network of groundwater....

Why in the news?

  • The Ministry of Jal Shakti is working on an ambitious plan to deploy a vast network of groundwater sensors that would continuously relay information on groundwater levels and the degree of contamination down to the taluk level.
  • At present, such information is only measured a few times a year and communicated via reports from the Central Groundwater Board.

What is Groundwater?

  • Groundwater is the water found underground in the cracks and spaces in soil, sand and rock.
  • It is stored in and moves slowly through geologic formations of soil, sand and rocks called aquifers.
  • Aquifers are typically made up of gravel, sand, sandstone, or fractured rock, like limestone.
  • Water can move through these materials because they have large connected spaces that make them permeable.
  • Aquifers, hand-dug wells, and artesian wells are different types of sources of groundwater.

Significance of the move

  • Monitoring: Establishing a network that would continuously measure groundwater quality, feed it into a centralized network such as that of the National Water Informatics Centre (NWIC) and available for monitoring would make groundwater visible much the same way as air quality.
  • Those regions and States that are known to have groundwater contamination, for example, coastal salinity or excessive depletion, would be monitored more intensely for action by States.
  • Groundwater forecasts: The government would be able to provide groundwater forecasts to farmers that would be useful for sowing, and updated advisories that can influence groundwater extraction policies by States.
  • Except for information on water flow governed by international treaties, most of this information would be publicly accessible.
  • The information will help in informed decision-making.
  • It will help in monitoring pollutants in water.
  • It will help the government to take appropriate steps to address the issue.
  • Given the dependence on agriculture on groundwater resources it would be immensely helpful.

Why monitor groundwater?

  • Nitrate contamination – a result of the use of nitrogenous fertilizers – has been observed in some regions
  • Groundwater contamination, mostly “geogenic” (natural), hasn’t significantly changed over the years.
  • But nitrate contamination and fluoride and arsenic contamination have been observed in some regions and states.

Groundwater Extraction in India

  • The total annual groundwater recharge in the country has been assessed as 437.60 billion cubic meters (BCM)
  • The annual extractable groundwater resource has been assessed as 398.08 bcm, with actual extraction of 239.16 bcm
  • The average stage of groundwater extraction for the country as a whole works out to be about 60.08%, and anything above 70% is considered “critical”


  • The Jal Shakti Ministry’s initiative to establish a network that will continuously measure groundwater quality is a significant step toward water conservation and management in India.
  • The continuous measurement of groundwater levels and contamination would benefit farmers, policymakers, and the general public.
  • The government’s focus on groundwater management is timely, given the increasing demand for groundwater resources and the associated risks of depletion and contamination.
  • With the deployment of this vast network of groundwater sensors, India is on its way to achieving sustainable groundwater management.

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