India’s Groundwater Crisis and a possible small step.

A recent report highlights a critical issue: the rate of groundwater depletion in India is projected to triple between 2041 and 2080 due to global warming. As temperatures rise, the demand for groundwater increases, exacerbating the already severe depletion rates. This situation persists despite projected increases in precipitation and potential decreases in irrigation use.

The study, published in the Science Advances journal, presents a dire forecast: under a business-as-usual scenario, warming could triple groundwater depletion rates over the coming decades. This is particularly alarming given that over 60% of India’s irrigated agriculture relies on groundwater, with many regions already facing severe shortages.

The researchers found that, across various climate change scenarios, groundwater levels are expected to decline by an average of 3.26 times the current depletion rates (ranging from 1.62 to 4.45 times) depending on the climate model and Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) scenario. Farmers have been adapting to warming temperatures by increasing groundwater withdrawals, which accelerates depletion rates.

The Role of Hydroponic Fodder Production

In this context, Shunya’s innovative approach to hydroponic green fodder production offers a promising solution. Hydroponically grown fodder requires significantly less water than traditional farming methods. By growing green fodder year-round using hydroponics, Shunya aims to mitigate the impact of water scarcity on agriculture.

Each of Shunya’s hydroponic facilities are designed to produce about 5 tons of fodder daily, providing a reliable source of nutrition for livestock. This method not only addresses the deficit of green fodder but also reduces the reliance on groundwater, making it a sustainable option for the future.

Addressing Groundwater Depletion

The report underscores the need for effective policies to manage groundwater use. Recommendations include rationing power supply, metering electricity usage, developing regional water resources, and rewarding farmers for investing in groundwater recharge. Additionally, efficient irrigation technologies, cultivation of less water-intensive crops, and supplemental irrigation through canals are crucial interventions.

Historically, policies facilitating groundwater extraction and an unregulated irrigation economy have led to overexploitation. Increased access to borewells, subsidized electricity, and lack of metering have allowed unchecked groundwater withdrawals. To combat this, a combination of regulatory measures and innovative farming practices, such as hydroponics, is essential.

Future Implications

Without intervention, groundwater depletion rates are likely to accelerate under climate change. The study indicates that warming-induced groundwater pumping will expand the areas facing overexploitation, potentially affecting regions with hard rock aquifers in south and central India by 2050. These aquifers are harder to recharge and have less storage capacity compared to the alluvial aquifers in northwest India.

To prevent a water crisis, it is crucial to implement water-saving policies and interventions across India, especially in regions not yet severely affected. Shunya’s hydroponic fodder production exemplifies how innovative agricultural practices can contribute to sustainable water management.

By adopting such practices and implementing effective policies, India can address the looming groundwater crisis, ensuring long-term water and food security in the face of climate change.