Depletion of the Earth ́s Soul, Life is on Brink
Water is life – and life on earth is linked to water. Our existence is dependent on water, or the lack of it, in many ways, and one could say that our whole civilization is built on the use of water. Farming and the development of settlements lead to the beginning of the problem that faces mankind today – how to get drinkable water for humans and cattle and how to manage the waste we produce. The availability of water in large quantities has been considered an essential part of civilization throughout the different periods: Roman baths needed a lot of water, as do the water closets and showers used in current Western civilization. The importance of good quality drinking water has been established for years.
Some 10,000 years ago, when people adopted an agrarian way of life, mankind established permanent settlements. This new type of livelihood spread everywhere and the population began to expand faster than ever before. Sedentary agricultural life made it possible to construct villages, cities and eventually states, all of which were highly dependent on water. This created a brand new relationship between humans and water. The earliest known permanent settlement, which can be classified as urban, is Jericho from 8000–7000 B.C., located near springs and other bodies of water. In Egypt, there are traces of wells, and in Mesopotamia of stone rainwater channels, from 3000 B.C.
From the early Bronze Age city of Mohenjo-Daro, archaeologists have found hundreds of ancient wells, water pipes, and toilets. Throughout history, there have been different solutions to guarantee an ample amount of water for human settlements. Indigenous people have been very ingenious in drawing their water. They have considered water a very crucial and often a sacred element. In the long run, the availability of an abundant or adequate amount of water has been one of the crucial factors for the development of a society – cities, and communities.
What are the terms related to groundwater?
Groundwater is the water that seeps through rocks and soil and is stored below the ground. Groundwater contamination is the presence of certain pollutants in groundwater that is in excess of the limits prescribed for drinking water. Groundwater depletion, a term often defined as long-term water-level declines caused by sustained groundwater pumping, is a key issue associated with groundwater use.
Why is Groundwater, an intense crisis?
The water stored in the ground can be compared to money kept in a bank account. If you withdraw money at a faster rate than you deposit new money you will eventually start having account-supply problems. Pumping water out of the ground faster than it is replenished over the long-term causes similar problems. The volume of groundwater in storage is decreasing in many areas of the countries in response to pumping. Groundwater depletion is primarily caused by sustained groundwater pumping. Some of the negative effects of groundwater depletion:
- drying up of wells
- reduction of water in streams and lakes
- deterioration of water quality
- increased pumping costs
- land subsidence
Causes of Groundwater Depletion
The groundwater depletion is mostly man-made due to excess population growth and mismanagement of water resources. Some of the major reasons for Groundwater depletion are:
- Inefficient use of water for agriculture. India is among the top growers of agricultural produce in the world and therefore the consumption of water for irrigation is amongst the highest. Traditional techniques of irrigation cause maximum water loss due to evaporation, drainage, percolation, water conveyance, and excess use of groundwater. As more areas come under traditional irrigation techniques, the stress for water available for other purposes will continue. The solution lies in the extensive use of micro-irrigation techniques such as drip and sprinkler irrigation.
- Reduction in traditional water recharging areas. Rapid construction is ignoring traditional water bodies that have also acted as groundwater recharging mechanism. We need to urgently revive traditional aquifers while implementing new ones.
- Sewage and wastewater drainage into traditional water bodies. Government intervention at the source is urgently required if this problem is to be tackled.
- Release of chemicals and effluents into rivers, streams and ponds. Strict monitoring and implementation of laws by the government, NGOs and social activists are required.
- Lack of on-time desilting operations in large water bodies that can enhance water storage capacity during monsoon. It is surprising that the governments at state levels have not taken this up on priority as an annual practice. This act alone can significantly add to the water storage levels.
- Lack of efficient water management and distribution of water between urban consumers, the agriculture sector and industry. The government needs to enhance its investment in technology and include all stakeholders at the planning level to ensure the optimization of existing resources.
What are some effects of groundwater depletion?
Pumping groundwater at a faster rate than it can be recharged can have some negative effects of the environment and the people who make use of the water:
Lowering of the water table
Pumping has removed water from storage in basalt aquifers and caused declines in many areas of the Plateau regions. The most severe consequence of excessive groundwater pumping is that the water table, below which the ground is saturated with water, can be lowered. For water to be withdrawn from the ground, water must be pumped from a well that reaches below the water table. If groundwater levels decline too far, then the good owner might have to deepen the well, drill a new well, or, at least, attempt to lower the pump. Also, as water levels decline, the rate of water the well can yield may decline.
Reduction of water in streams and lakes
There is more of an interaction between the water in lakes and rivers and groundwater than most people think. Some, and often a great deal of the water flowing in rivers comes from seepage of groundwater into the streambed. Groundwater contributes to streams in most physiographic and climatic settings. The proportion of stream water that comes from groundwater inflow varies according to a region’s geography, geology, and climate.
Groundwater pumping can alter how water moves between an aquifer and a stream, lake, or wetland by either intercepting groundwater flow that discharges into the surface-water body under natural conditions, or by increasing the rate of water movement from the surface-water body into an aquifer. A related effect of groundwater pumping is the lowering of groundwater levels below the depth that streamside or wetland vegetation needs to survive. The overall effect is a loss of riparian vegetation and wildlife habitat.
The basic cause of land subsidence is a loss of support below the ground. In other words, sometimes when water is taken out of the soil, the soil collapses, compacts, and drops. This depends on a number of factors, such as the type of soil and rock below the surface. Land subsidence is most often caused by human activities, mainly from the removal of subsurface water.
Increased Cost for the Users
As the depth to water increases, the water must be lifted higher to reach the land surface. If pumps are used to lift the water (as opposed to artesian wells), more energy is required to drive the pump. Using the well can become prohibitively expensive.
Deterioration of Water Quality
One water-quality threat to fresh groundwater supplies is contamination from saltwater intrusion. All of the water in the ground is not freshwater; much of the very deep groundwater and water below oceans is saline. In fact, an estimated 12.9 cubic kilometers of saline groundwater exists compared to about 10.5 million cubic kilometers of fresh groundwater. Under natural conditions, the boundary between the freshwater and saltwater tends to be relatively stable, but pumping can cause saltwater to migrate inland and upward, resulting in saltwater contamination of the water supply.
Solutions to overcome Groundwater Depletion
- One of the most effective ways to address the issue of groundwater depletion is to find alternative sources of water. Alternative water sources can be used to help replenish aquifers.
- More comprehensive research and additional funding can help with groundwater depletion. The best way to approach the topic of groundwater depletion and to find a solution is to think on both a personal and government level.
Limit of water-extraction
To deal with excessive tapping of groundwater, the maximum depth should be determined in each area. Drilling up to 400 feet can be carried. Prior to it, deep tubewells should be filled up, so that water can be removed only up to 400 feet. Thus, the water level will not fall below this.
Change in crop-patterns
Groundwater can be preserved by the determination of crop cycle. Low water consuming crops should be grown in not so water-rich areas and where there is a high intake of water, high-water consumption crops should be cultivated. Crop should be allowed to grow as per the availability of water in every area.
Protection and enrichment of water resources
In addition, groundwater centres should be set up in each state. Illegal exploitation of should be banned. Tapping the inner water of the land for personal use without any information can cause problems in the future. Water is needed for drinking as well as irrigation, industry, power generation etc. For proper utilization of available water resources for this, their protection and enrichment are also important.
Diverting River Streams
In many countries of the world, the problem of water has been solved by diverting the water of a river on the other side. There has been some work in this direction in India. In Tamil Nadu’s eastern parts, water has been diverted to Periyar. Yamuna’s water has also been diverted towards the western part. The river Sindhu has been flown towards Rajasthan. But there is a need to take concrete steps in this direction at the national level. The set up of National River Project aims to connect all major rivers together so that availability of water in all areas can be ensured but nothing can be said when the plan will be implemented.
There is a need to deepen old reservoirs along with building new reservoirs. Besides increasing the depth of the boring of new tubewells, there is a need to coordinate between geologists and engineers at the time of selection of space.
Several measures need to be taken to protect the earth from the threat of climate change, including undertaking extensive plantation.
Many schemes have been made at the government level for water conservation, but the lack of awareness among the people and due to official apathy, the schemes have so far not been able to achieve the desired level.
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