Groundwater Extraction: Reasons, Effects & Solutions

Groundwater Extraction
Groundwater Extraction

Groundwater Extraction is the process of taking out water that is stored in the ground. Groundwater is the water that’s underground and it’s essential for the survival of humanity.

It is needed to stay alive, grow crops, use machinery, and stay comfortable. As humans need more clean water than what they get from rain and surface water, they rely on groundwater a lot.

Water goes through a natural process to become groundwater. The water on the surface, like oceans, lakes, and rivers, gets heated by the Sun and turns into vapor. This vapor then turns into rain or snow, which falls from the sky. When the water falls on the ground, it seeps into the Earth and gets stored underground as groundwater in special areas called aquifers.

Facts and Statistics Related to Groundwater Extraction

India uses more groundwater than any other country in the world. Every year, they extract a massive amount of groundwater, about 253 billion cubic meters. This is around 25% of all the groundwater extracted worldwide.

  • In India, there are different categories for assessing the state of groundwater.
  • Out of a total of 6,584 assessment units, 1,034 are considered “Over-exploited,” meaning they are using groundwater at an unsustainable rate.
  • Another 253 units are classified as “Critical,” 681 as “Semi-Critical,” and 4,520 as “Safe.”
  • The remaining 96 units are labeled as “Saline” because they don’t have access to fresh groundwater due to saltiness.
  • When it comes to water availability in India, there are about 1,123 billion cubic meters of water resources.
  • Surface water accounts for 690 billion cubic meters, while the remaining 433 billion cubic meters is groundwater.
  • Out of all the groundwater available, 90% is used for irrigation in agriculture, and the remaining 10% is used for domestic and industrial purposes combined.

Reasons for Groundwater Extraction in India

There are several reasons why groundwater is depleting in India:

  1. High Rate of Consumption: Groundwater is extracted faster than it can replenish itself. As the world’s population grows, more water is needed.
  2. Exhausted Aquifers: Aquifers are like huge sponges that absorb and hold water, and they play a vital role in providing us with fresh water. However, they can only hold a limited amount of water, and if they get depleted faster than they recharge, India will face water scarcity.
  3. Large Population and the Water-Intensive Nature of Farming: it’s concerning that there isn’t much groundwater left. Without sufficient groundwater, it becomes challenging to provide water for drinking, crops, and animals, especially during droughts. Less water means less food, and it would be a struggle to meet the high demand with limited supply.
  4. Natural Factors: such as changes in climate, can also contribute to groundwater depletion.
    While human activities are the primary cause, shifts in climate patterns can exacerbate the problem and speed up the process of groundwater depletion.

Overall, the excessive use and mismanagement of groundwater in India, combined with natural factors, are causing a significant depletion of this vital water resource.

Effects of Groundwater Extraction

Groundwater Extraction has several significant effects including

  • Increased Cost: As the groundwater from shallower depths is extracted, less water is available. More resources are to be invested in developing alternative methods to reach deeper reserves.
  • Large Bodies of Water such as lakes, rivers, and seas, become shallower due to groundwater depletion. When there’s a shortage of groundwater, less water flows, resulting in reduced water levels over time. This affects the entire ecosystem, including fish and wildlife.
  • Groundwater depletion can cause saltwater contamination. As the groundwater is often connected to larger bodies of water. Deep groundwater can mix with saltwater, creating a situation known as saltwater contamination.
  • The depletion of large aquifers has adverse effects on food supply and communities. Examples like the Colorado River demonstrate how vital groundwater reserves are being depleted, despite their critical importance to the economy and well-being.
  • Groundwater depletion limits biodiversity and contributes to the formation of dangerous sinkholes. For instance, areas near the Gulf of Mexico and Mexico City heavily depend on aquifers. The contamination of water due to runoff from industrial farming materials affects wildlife, marine animals, and agriculture in the Gulf of Mexico region.

Some negative effects of groundwater Extraction include a lowered water table, increased costs of pumping water from greater depths, reduced surface water supplies, land subsidence, and concerns about water quality, especially the risk of saltwater intrusion in coastal areas.

Solutions to the Problem of Excessive Groundwater Extraction

To address Excessive groundwater Extraction, several solutions can be implemented:

  1. Individual-Centric Conservation: Reducing water consumption for luxury purposes, such as decorative water features, and unnecessary outdoor water use like swimming pools.
    Conserving water by turning off faucets, limiting appliance usage, and avoiding wasteful practices at home can save substantial amounts of water.
  2. Proper Chemical Management: Chemicals from businesses and residential areas often end up in water systems, polluting larger bodies of water and infiltrating the ground. By using fewer chemicals and ensuring their proper disposal, we can prevent toxic substances from contaminating our water supply.
  3. Increased Research and Funding: A comprehensive approach involving both individual and governmental actions.
    Stricter regulations should be implemented to govern groundwater pumping, with specific guidelines and enforcement.
  4. Exploring Alternative Water Sources: By utilizing alternative methods, we can reduce the reliance on groundwater and allow aquifers to replenish naturally.
    This approach also provides the opportunity to develop sustainable practices and technologies that minimize water usage.
  5. Effective Regulation of Groundwater Pumping: To prevent excessive use, it is crucial to have a thorough understanding of our groundwater resources.
    Adequate funding should be allocated to research and monitoring efforts, allowing us to set limits and adopt sustainable practices that ensure responsible use of groundwater.


Groundwater is the base for the survival of humans. India is heavily dependent on groundwater and thus faces a risk of facing a water crisis in the near future. In order to save guard, the future of the Indian population, India needs to overhaul its policy and follow a water-centric approach.

By implementing the solutions mentioned, India can mitigate groundwater depletion and work towards ensuring a sustainable and reliable water supply for present and future generations.


What are the Methods of Groundwater Extraction?

Methods of groundwater extraction vary depending on the depth and accessibility of the water table. Common methods include drilling wells using hand pumps, submersible pumps, or deep tube wells. Other techniques include open-dug wells, infiltration galleries, and tube wells with filters.

Extraction can also be done through traditional methods such as step wells or qanats. Each method has its advantages and limitations, and the selection depends on factors like water availability, cost, and sustainability.

Why is Groundwater Extraction Done?

Groundwater extraction is primarily done to fulfill various human needs, including drinking water supply, irrigation for agriculture, and industrial use. Groundwater is often used as a reliable source of freshwater, particularly in areas where surface water resources are limited or unreliable.

It provides a consistent water supply, helps support agricultural activities during dry periods, and ensures access to clean drinking water for communities. However, excessive extraction can lead to environmental issues and depletion of the aquifers.

What is the Extraction of Groundwater in India?

Groundwater extraction in India is significant due to the country’s large population and diverse water needs. It plays a crucial role in meeting the irrigation requirements of agriculture, which is a major sector in the Indian economy. India relies heavily on groundwater for irrigation, with millions of tube wells and dug wells extracting water from aquifers.

What are the Effects of Groundwater Extraction?

The effects of groundwater extraction can be both positive and negative. Positive effects include meeting water demands for various purposes, supporting agriculture, and providing a reliable source of freshwater. However, over-extraction can have adverse consequences.

Depletion of groundwater reserves can lead to lowered water tables, increased pumping costs, land subsidence, and reduced water availability for ecosystems and other users. It can also cause seawater intrusion in coastal areas, affecting the quality and usability of freshwater resources.

What is the Extraction Process of Water?

The extraction process of water involves various steps depending on the source. For groundwater, it typically involves drilling a well or installing a tube well or pump system to access the underground aquifers. The well is constructed by drilling or digging into the ground until it reaches the water-bearing layer. A pump or other extraction mechanism is then used to lift the water to the surface.

Surface water extraction, on the other hand, involves collecting water from rivers, lakes, or reservoirs using intake structures, pumps, and pipelines. Water is then treated, if necessary, and distributed to users through a network of pipes or canals.


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