April 26, 2016

2016: ITP Highlight # 05

How much groundwater do our urban areas pump? There's no easy answer due to large number of unregistered private wells. Couchois discusses an innovative way around, using electricity as surrogate...

Measuring the Invisible

Exploring the water-energy nexus to estimate private, urban groundwater draft

Angèle Couchois

Pumping of groundwater for domestic uses is common across the country. Almost every high-rise, every new housing society and independent houses have a private tubewell that services domestic water requirements. However, none of these private tubewells are registered. As a result, governance institutions and policy makers have no idea about the extent of private groundwater extraction. However, as soon as the owners acquire an electricity connection, they create a surrogate registration which can be used to quantify the extent of private groundwater draft.

The objective of this study is to develop a methodology to estimate urban groundwater withdrawal using data from electricity utilities. We argue that the water-energy nexus can inform groundwater management and governance policies in urban India by producing a rapid, context-sensitive and fairly robust estimate of private groundwater draft. Applying our methodology to selected regions in Gujarat, we find that private groundwater draft represents a significant share of total water consumption in these regions.

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