[Kurukshetra April 2023 Summary] Groundwater Water Management through Panchayats – Explained, pointwise

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Water is an essential natural resource for sustaining life and livelihoods, especially in rural areas. However, it is increasingly becoming a scarce commodity due to over-exploitation and insufficient natural replenishment. With the mounting pressure of population growth and water-consuming sectors, sustainable water management has become vital in rural areas. Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs), National Water Policy, and local bodies play a significant role in addressing water management challenges.  

About Groundwater Status in India

India is the world’s largest user of groundwater, catering to 85% of the rural and 45% of the urban domestic water supply. However, overexploitation and poor recharge have led to groundwater depletion, with 17% of blocks being overexploited, 5% at a critical stage, and 14% at a semi-critical stage. This situation poses threats to livelihoods, food security, and climate-driven migration.  

What are the roles and responsibilities of PRI in groundwater water management?  

PRIs play a critical role in rural water governance and management. They deliver basic services, develop infrastructure, and ensure the smooth functioning of water management systems. The Gram Panchayats (GPs) and Gram Sabhas, along with Pani Samitis or Village Water and Sanitation Committees (VWSCs), collaborate to plan, implement, operate, and maintain village drinking water security.  

The key responsibilities of GPs, Gram Sabhas, and VWSCs include:  

Developing water supply schemes: GPs and Gram Sabhas are responsible for determining the estimated demand for drinking water, identifying appropriate water sources, and deciding on the type of water supply scheme. 

Approving investment plans and budgets: The Gram Sabha approves village plans, annual budgets, and user-fee charges after thorough deliberation. Ensuring community participation: The Gram Sabha comprises the larger community and is responsible for key decision-making processes.  

Implementing demand-side management strategies: Pani Samitis work to curb the wastage of water at domestic and community levels.  

Promoting water quality and cleanliness: Pani Samitis create awareness about the importance of clean and safe water.  

Monitoring water quality: VWSCs are responsible for regular monitoring, sampling, and analysis of groundwater drinking sources to prevent water-borne diseases and other health issues.  

Coordinating with health centers: VWSCs liaise with Primary Health Centers and NRHN workers (ASHA) to monitor the incidence of water-borne diseases.  

Collaborating with District Water and Sanitation Missions: GPs and VWSCs receive support from District Water and Sanitation Missions to finalize water plans and set priorities.  

Working with Block Resource Centers: Block Resource Centers assist communities in preparing and implementing plans by providing motivation, training, and technical support. 

Read more: Water Management needs a Hydro Social Approach 

What are the various government initiatives for groundwater water management in India?

National Water Policy (2012): The policy aims to provide a framework for sustainable water management in India, involving local bodies in the planning of water resource projects for better impact and efficiency.  

Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABY): Launched in 2019, this comprehensive scheme aims to improve groundwater management in critical areas through community involvement, water budgeting, and preparation of water security plans at the gram panchayat level.  

Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY): Started in 2015, PMKSY focuses on accelerating supply-side and demand side management in the agricultural sector, with measures such as increasing on-farm water use efficiency, watershed development, and repair, renovation, and restoration of water bodies.  

Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM): This ambitious mission aims to provide tap water supply to every rural household in India by 2024, with implementation largely carried out by state governments and technical and financial assistance provided by the central government.  

Command Area Development and Water Management (CAD&WM) program: This program, a component of PMKSY, supports the creation of Water User Associations (WUAs) for participatory irrigation management at the local level, involving farmers in water distribution and the collection of water charges.  

These initiatives are just a few examples of the numerous efforts made by the Indian government to address the country’s water management challenges. By involving local communities and institutions in decision-making and implementation, these programs aim to promote sustainable water use and conservation, ensuring that water resources are available for future generations.  

Read more: New CAG report exposes wide gap between India’s groundwater management regulations & implementation

How does “water user association” (WUA) play a crucial role in groundwater water management in India?

Note: Water User Associations (WUAs) are community-based organizations that share a common interest of well performing irrigation systems.

Water User Associations’ Role in Water Management in India include,

Equitable Water Distribution: Water User Associations (WUAs) ensure an efficient and equitable distribution of water among farmers, helping to prevent conflicts and promote fair access to this vital resource. For example, In Bakaram Jagir Gram Panchayat, Telangana, the local government has made efforts to provide equitable water distribution to all households. By constructing an Over Head Tank (OHT) in 1998, an underground water tank in 2005, and a second OHT in 2008, the village has ensured that all its 580 households have access to water through pipes and public stand posts.  

Infrastructure Maintenance: WUAs are responsible for the maintenance and management of irrigation systems, including canals and structures, which is essential for sustainable water usage in agriculture. For example, to address the need for safe drinking water, Bakaram Jagir Gram Panchayat took the initiative to set up a Reverse Osmosis (RO) plant in 2016. This treated water is accessible to everyone in the village at a minimal cost. The Gram Panchayat collaborated with the Rotary Club of Hyderabad for financial support and ensured proper operation and maintenance of the RO plant. As a result, nearly all households now consume safe and treated drinking water, with free access provided to the primary school and the Aanganwadi for children’s well-being.  

Financial Management: WUAs coordinate the recovery of irrigation water rates from beneficiary farmers, helping to maintain the financial sustainability of water management efforts. For instead, the Pappla Gram Panchayat efficiently managed funds from various sources to implement waste management and water supply initiatives. They utilized funds from the MREGA to construct two new Haudis for rainwater collection and storage. Additionally, they utilized Swachh Bharat Mission-Grameen funds to construct septic tanks for toilets. By effectively managing these financial resources, the Panchayat was able to address the waste and water management issues faced by the villagers.  

Crop Pattern Recommendations: WUAs provide guidance on the best cropping patterns and agricultural practices for minimizing water use and enhancing water efficiency, promoting sustainable farming methods in their regions.  

Community Engagement: By involving local farmers and stakeholders, WUAs foster a sense of ownership and responsibility among community members, which is crucial for the long-term success of water management initiatives.  

Capacity Building and Training: WUAs organize training programs for farmers on topics such as conjunctive water use, community lift irrigation, and other water-saving techniques, helping to improve the overall water management skills within the community.  

Through these roles and responsibilities, Water User Associations play a vital role in the management of water resources in India. By engaging local communities and stakeholders, WUAs contribute to the overall sustainability and effectiveness of water management efforts across the country.  

Must read: [Kurukshetra July Summary] Equitable Water Resources Management – Explained, pointwise

How to achieve sustainable groundwater water management in rural areas?

Community Participation: Involving local communities in groundwater management can lead to better decision-making and sustainable practices. For example, in Rajasthan, the Tarun Bharat Sangh organization has successfully engaged local communities in constructing traditional water harvesting structures, which has helped replenish groundwater levels and improve water security. 

Rainwater Harvesting: Promoting rainwater harvesting in rural areas can help recharge groundwater levels. For instance, in Tamil Nadu the government has made it mandatory for every household to install rainwater harvesting systems, leading to significant improvements in groundwater levels. 

Artificial Recharge Techniques: Implementing artificial recharge techniques like percolation tanks, check dams, and recharge wells can help increase groundwater levels. In Gujarat the Sardar Patel Participatory Water Conservation Program has constructed numerous check dams, which have recharged groundwater and benefited local farmers. 

Water Conservation Practices: Encouraging water conservation practices, such as drip irrigation and mulching, can help reduce groundwater extraction. In Maharashtra, the Paani Foundation has trained farmers in water conservation techniques, resulting in increased agricultural productivity and reduced groundwater exploitation. 

Groundwater Monitoring: Establishing a robust groundwater monitoring system can help track changes in groundwater levels and inform sustainable management decisions. In Andhra Pradesh, the government has implemented the AP Drought Mitigation Project, which includes a comprehensive groundwater monitoring network to guide water management strategies. 

Legal Framework and Regulation: Developing and enforcing legal frameworks and regulations can help control excessive groundwater extraction. In India, the Central Ground Water Authority has been established to regulate and manage groundwater resources, issuing guidelines for sustainable groundwater extraction and promoting water conservation measures. 

Read more: Nature-based, people-centred solutions for water


To ensure sustainable water resource management in India, Panchayats must act as both service providers and observers. Appropriate planning, supported by people’s participation, is imperative for maintaining water quality and availability in the future. Engaging communities in the water management process creates awareness and a sense of ownership, driving water projects towards success and creating lasting societal impacts. 

Source: Kurukshetra

Syllabus: GS 2:  Human and Economic Geography – Geographical features and their location-changes in critical geographical features (including water-bodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna

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