02 September 2009

Water crisis ahead

Subir Roy's article in the Business Standard about the impending water crisis in North India, his conclusion:
The most long-term and lasting solution is for India to join in the battle to reverse global warming so that the glaciers don’t melt at their present rate. India also has to change its entire culture of water use — go easy on cultivating non-essential crops that are water guzzlers, like sugarcane; widely adopt farm technologies like sprinkler and drip irrigation which use far less water; recycle waste water a lot more; rejuvenate rivers; and recharge ground water by storing and saving the runoff through water harvesting. These measures have by now become indisputable. Yet, the spectre of a creeping desert continues to haunt us because of grossly inadequate action.
The problems of groundwater are also reported in geologist Suvrat Kher's blog ..not just for North India but he also links up groundwater, geology and farmer suicides in Maharashtra - a clear case for the need to look into the problem in more depth than merely a policy of loan waivers..
The Tata Institute of Social Sciences report on farmer suicides found that farmers had little or no groundwater available to them during times of rain failure. A combination of complex hydrogeology and poor management of groundwater resources has exerted a powerful influence on the lives and livelihoods of Maharashtra farmers.
As he says
If groundwater is to take center stage in our adaptation to climate change geological knowledge will have to play an increasingly important role in how this resource is managed and exploited.
This problem is actually worldwide, as Robert Glennon pointed out in the Washington Post
In the United States, we constantly fret about running out of oil. But we should be paying more attention to another limited natural resource: water. A water crisis is threatening many parts of the country -- not just the arid West.
In the United States, we've traditionally engineered our way out of water shortages by diverting more from rivers, building dams or drilling groundwater wells. But many rivers, including the Colorado and the Rio Grande, already dry up each year. The dam-building era from the 1930s to the 1960s tamed so many rivers that only 60 in the country remain free-flowing. Meanwhile, we're pumping so much water from wells that the levels in aquifers are plummeting. We're running out of technological fixes.

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