August 13, 2009
Northern India Ground Water Dropping

Some people are going to get thirsty.

Irvine, Calif. Using satellite data, UC Irvine and NASA hydrologists have found that groundwater beneath northern India has been receding by as much as 1 foot per year over the past decade and they believe human consumption is almost entirely to blame.

More than 109 cubic kilometers (26 cubic miles) of groundwater disappeared from the region's aquifers between 2002 and 2008 double the capacity of India's largest surface-water reservoir, the Upper Wainganga, and triple that of Lake Mead, the largest manmade reservoir in the U.S.

People are pumping northern India's underground water, mostly to irrigate cropland, faster than natural processes can replenish it, said Jay Famiglietti and Isabella Velicogna, UCI Earth system scientists, and Matt Rodell of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

"If measures are not soon taken to ensure sustainable groundwater usage, consequences for the 114 million residents of the region may include a collapse of agricultural output, severe shortages of potable water, conflict and suffering," said Rodell, lead author of the study and former doctoral student of Famiglietti's at the University of Texas at Austin.

Imagine India with a few hundred million more people. Water will deplete at an even faster rate.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 August 13 11:47 PM  Trends Resource Depletion

coldequation said at August 14, 2009 5:22 AM:

I think it's feasible to pump desalinated water from the ocean, or from the big rivers in wetter parts of India, a long way if necessary. We already pump water from the Colorado River on the eastern edge of California to LA, and I've read that it's feasible to pump water from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Plains.

Whether it's worthwhile or will be done is another question.

People, not profits! said at August 14, 2009 2:33 PM:

I recall reading about Indian program of providing electricity to farmers for free (it's an electricity-for-votes scheme). Well, and this must be one of the side effects...

cancer_man said at August 14, 2009 7:24 PM:


econ 101.... supply, demand , PRICE
(these all move)

David Govett said at August 14, 2009 10:41 PM:

The Himalayas are still rising as the Indian subcontinent plows northward into Asia, but not as fast as the water is falling.

Randall Parker said at August 15, 2009 3:04 PM:


But this yet another example of the Tragedy Of The Commons. All the users of this water are getting without any thought to the long run and with no clear property rights. Price? When the wells run dry poor farmers simply won't be able to afford water. Before that happens they'll have big families with the existing water to feed them. So when the water ends many more mouths will be there to feed.

cancer_man said at August 20, 2009 6:31 PM:

This isnt a tragedy of the commons, is it? At least not spelled out in the article. If so in a local area, then poor farmers would not be affected by price since no one controls the water.

The article also doesnt give a time estimate when they think disaster will hit. But it won't hit suddenly, and politics would force any water not within propert rights to be so.

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