Groundwater Protection

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    The United Nations-Water Summit on Groundwater 2022 underlined that groundwater must be protected at all costs since it is key to global food production and food security.

    Major Highlights

    • About the Conference:
      • The conference was organised by UN-Water, UNESCO and the International Groundwater Resources Assessment Centre. 
      • The summit was organised to raise awareness on groundwater conservation at the global stage. 
      • It also marked the completion of the “Groundwater: Making the invisible visible” campaign run by UN-Water throughout 2022.
    • UN 2023 Water Conference:
      • The UN 2023 water conference in New York City offers unprecedented potential for progress on SDG 6 (Sustainable Development Goal 6 is about clean water and sanitation for all) and all water-related goals of the 2023 agenda.
    • Groundwater management:
      • It needs to apply five acceleration instruments to ensure that this succeeds:
        • Governance
        • Data and information
        • Innovation
        • Capacity development
        • Finance
    • Coalition: 
      • A coalition was formed on transboundary water cooperation. 
      • Transboundary waters accounted for 60 percent of the freshwater that flowed globally. 
      • Only 32 countries have 90 percent or more of their transboundary basin and aquifer area covered by operational agreements.
      • The gap between water supply and demand is increasing. So the combination of these three facts can represent a huge potential for future conflicts or it can be a driver of mutually beneficial cooperation.
    • South Asia: 
      • South Asia was the largest consumer of groundwater in the world today.  
      • As of today, in the region, we are drawing over 600 billion cubic metres of groundwater every year — both from transboundary aquifers and from water sources that are very ancient. 
      • This groundwater once drawn for use cannot be recharged back.
      • South Asia hosts not more than five percent of the global land cover. 
      • But it hosts more than a third of the irrigated land and more than a fourth of the global population. 
      • About 85 percent of the water required for irrigation to produce food and 90 percent of drinking water is drawn from groundwater in south Asia.
      • The huge extraction of groundwater is also drying out the rivers. This is another big challenge for this region.

    Threat to Groundwater

    • Degradation from human activities, often associated with poor land, agricultural, and waste management threatens:
      • Current uses of groundwater and 
      • Human and ecosystem health 
      • Limits benefits of future generations
    • The problem is more pronounced in South Asia because much of the groundwater is heterogenous. Some 70 percent of groundwater is hosted only in 30 percent of land cover in south Asia and the rest is hosted in areas covered by Himalayan rivers.
    • Water pollution is another issue as much of the groundwater is polluted by contaminants like arsenic and Fluoride. More than 400 million people are exposed to these pollutants. So, it is not just a quantity issue but also a water quality issue in India.

    Significance

    • Ground water has become an increasingly important natural resource catering to the fresh water requirements of various sectors in India. 
    • Ground water has steadily emerged as the backbone of India’s agriculture and drinking water security.
    • Groundwater is the principal water source for a fourth of the world’s population. India is the world’s largest groundwater user; nearly 250 cubic kilometres was taken out in 2017. 
    • About 90% of this was used for irrigation, the rest went to towns and villages.

    Way Ahead

    • Governance, actions and investments on groundwater should be prioritized in vulnerable and climate change / hazard-exposed regions, including sub-Saharan Africa, Small Island Developing States and coastal zones, areas with no or slowly renewable and vulnerable aquifers, and aquifers with naturally occurring but hazardous contaminants, like arsenic
    • The focus should be on underserved and hard-to-reach communities, including women, youth, and indigenous people.
    • Actions for building capacity should be taken in order to better govern and manage groundwater and achieve sustainable development goals (SDG).
    • Protection of groundwater must be guaranteed across all sectors including agriculture.
    • South Asian governments need to strengthen an integrated water management which involves both surface water and groundwater.

    Source: DTE