Earlier in January, Rohini Nilekani (Chairperson, Arghyam) was invited by the Finance Minister to a pre-budget consultation along with other social sector representatives. From Arghyam, we made a recommendation to the minister to Launch a Research Initiative to Mainstream Groundwater into Urban Water Supply:
Universal provision of clean water to all of India’s cities and towns is not feasible without adequate policy attention directed towards the sources of water. Groundwater has been and will remain an essential source of urban water supply, especially in smaller cities and towns. Surface water is an increasingly scarce and expensive resource and cannot be solely relied upon to service urban India and can exacerbate rural problems if promoted unchecked.
In the long run, it is paramount that groundwater be mainstreamed into urban water supply planning and policies. Today, however, there is insufficient knowledge to effectively tackle the twin problems of overexploitation and contamination that plague urban groundwater. There is insufficient data and research to formulate sound policies
that can incorporate groundwater sustainably and safely into drinking water supplies in cities.
It is proposed that in the Union Budget of 2013-14, the Government of India launch an Urban Groundwater Research Initiative with an allocation of Rs. 50 crores spent over three years, with a mandate of knowledge creation in the sector. Existing groundwater usage, its potential in augmenting other sources, the role of urban water bodies in groundwater recharge, and the nexus between sanitation and groundwater all need to be understood much better than they are today. A commitment to high quality research through partnerships with premier research institutions and competitive grants are necessary for robust policy formulation on urban groundwater. This will be a small investment that adds to the water security of India’s towns and cities.