North Indian states rapidly running out of water: Govt study

Results of CGWB study in 14,243 wells

A study by the Central Ground Water Board has revealed that India’s Ganga-Yamuna plain is rapidly running out of ground water.

Despite isolated cases like that of Chennai and Bangalore, the study also revealed that other areas of the country, including the east and the south, are better placed as far as ground water depletion is concerned.

The study involved 14,243 wells across the country, whose water levels were monitored for 11 years, from 2008 to 2018.

The 2018 water level was then compared to the average of the previous ten years.

The study found that out of the 14,243 wells studied all over India, 52% saw a decline in their water levels in 2018. The change in water level was calculated by comparing the 2018 water level with the average level seen in the preceding ten years.

48% of the wells in the study saw an increase in their water levels.


However, there was a clear pattern visible as far as different regions were concerned.

The biggest cause of worry was North India, particularly the Upper Ganga-Yamuna Plain.

States in this region saw very sharp, and alarming, declines in their well-water levels.

Punjab led from the front, with a whopping 84% of the wells showing declines in 2018.

It was followed by Uttar Pradesh at 83%, Jammu & Kashmir at 81%, Chandigarh at 78%, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi at 76% and Haryana at 75% and Uttarakhand at 71%.

In fact, all the states located in the Upper Ganga plains showed water-level declines in over 70% of the well, while none of the other states outside the Upper Ganga plains reported declines in more than 60% of the wells.

Out of the 1,501 wells studied in the eight Upper Ganga Plain states, 1,203 (80%) wells showed declines in their water levels in 2018.

For all the other states put together, only 48.7% of the wells showed declines, while 50.9% showed higher water levels.


The numbers are despite the fact that 2018 saw stronger than usual monsoon rains, particularly in the western and eastern parts of India. In Kerala, for example, heavy rains caused the biggest floods in a century.

Not surprisingly, therefore, western Indian states showed healthy levels of ground water.

Goa reported an increase in the water levels of 71% of the wells studied, while Bengal and Jharkhand reported 66%, Assam 64%, Odisha 61% and Karnataka 59%.

The rapid decline in ground water levels in the Upper Ganga Plains is attributed to the predominance of irrigated farmlands in the area.

Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh, in particular, produce a large part of India’s grains, and farmers in these states depend heavily on ground water for irrigating their crops.

However, with water levels dropping fast, it remains to be seen how sustainable agricultural production is in these states.