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Himanshu.S.Swaina, .Ratnamanjari Senapatib

a College of Fisheries, Mangalore

b Central Institute of Fisheries Education, Versova, Mumbai-400061

E mail: himanshufishco@gmail.com


Groundwater is water that comes from the ground. Everyone drinks groundwater every day. Groundwater is used for agriculture. Groundwater comes from rain, snow, sleet, and hail that soak into the ground. The water moves down into the ground because of gravity, passing between particles of soil, sand, gravel, or rock until it reaches a depth where the ground is filled, or saturated, with water. Think about this: have you ever dug a hole in sand next to an ocean or lake? What happens? As you're digging, you eventually reach water, right? That water is groundwater. The water in lakes, rivers, or oceans is called surface water...it's on the surface. Groundwater and surface water sometimes trade places. Groundwater can move through the ground and into a lake or stream. Water in a lake can soak down into the ground and become groundwater. The area that is filled with water is called the saturated zone and the top of this zone is called the water table. Groundwater is stored in the ground in materials like gravel or sand. It's kind of like the earth is a big sponge holding all that water.

Aquifer -an area that holds a lot of water, which can be pumped up with a well, is called an aquifer. Wells pump groundwater from the aquifer and then pipes deliver the water to cities, houses in the country, or to crops. Most groundwater is clean, but groundwater can become polluted, or contaminated. It can become polluted from leaky underground tanks that store gasoline, leaky landfills, or when people apply too much fertilizer or pesticides on their fields or lawns. Because it is deep in the ground, groundwater pollution is generally difficult and expensive to clean up.


Groundwater is the major source of drinking water in both urban and rural india. Besides, it is an important source of water for the agricultural and the industrial sector. Water utilization projections for 2000 put the groundwater usage at about 50%. Being an important and integral part of the hydrological cycle, its availability depends on the rainfall and recharge conditions. Till recently it had been considered a dependable source of uncontaminated water. The demand for water has increased over the years and this has led to water scarcity in many parts of the world. The situation is aggravated by the problem of water pollution or contamination. India is heading towards a freshwater crisis mainly due to improper management of water resources and environmental degradation, which has lead to a lack of access to safe water supply to millions of people. This freshwater crisis is already evident in many parts of India, varying in scale and intensity depending mainly on the time of the year.


Groundwater is an integral part of the environment. An uncontrolled use of the bore-well technology has led to the extraction of groundwater at such a high rate that often recharge is not sufficient.

The pollution of air, water, and land has an affect on the pollution and contamination of groundwater. The solid, liquid, and the gaseous waste that is generated, if not treated properly, results in pollution of the environment. For example, when the air is polluted, rainfall will settle many pollutants on the ground, which can then seep into and contaminate the groundwater resources.

Water extraction without proper recharge and leaching of pollutants from pesticides and fertilizers into the aquifers has polluted groundwater supplies. In addition, leachates from agriculture, industrial waste, and the municipal solid waste have also polluted surface- and ground-water. Some 45 million people the world over are affected by water pollution marked by excess fluoride, arsenic, iron, or the ingress of salt water.


Groundwater contamination occurs when man-made products such as gasoline, oil, road salts and chemicals get into the groundwater and cause it to become unsafe and unfit for human use. Some of the major sources of these products, called contaminants, are storage tanks, septic systems, hazardous waste sites, landfills, and the widespread use of road salts, fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals.

Storage tanks may contain gasoline, oil, chemicals, or other types of liquids and they can either be above or below ground. There are estimated to be over 10 million storage tanks buried in the United States and over time the tanks can corrode, crack and develop leaks. If the contaminants leak out and get into the groundwater, serious contamination can occur.

Septic systems can be another serious contamination source. Septic systems are used by homes, offices or other buildings that are not connected to a city sewer system. Septic systems are designed to slowly drain away human waste underground at a slow, harmless rate. An improperly designed, located, constructed, or maintained septic system can leak bacteria, viruses, household chemicals, and other contaminants into the groundwater causing serious problems.

Hazardous waste sites can lead to groundwater contamination if there are barrels or other containers laying around that are full of hazardous materials. If there is a leak, these contaminants can eventually make their way down through the soil and into the groundwater.

Landfills are another major source of contamination. Landfills are the places that our garbage is taken to be buried. Landfills are supposed to have a protective bottom layer to prevent contaminants from getting into the water. However, if there is no layer or it is cracked, contaminants from the landfill (car battery acid, paint, household cleaners, etc.) Can make their way down into the groundwater.

The widespread use of road salts and chemicals is another source of potential groundwater contamination. Road salts are used in the wintertime to put melt ice on roads to keep cars from sliding around. When the ice melts, the salt gets washed off the roads and eventually ends up in the water. Chemicals include products used on lawns and farm fields to kill weeds and insects and to fertilize the plants. When the rain comes, these chemicals get washed into the ground and eventually into the water. So it has to remember that since groundwater is part of the hydrologic cycle, contaminants in other parts of the cycle, such as the atmosphere or bodies of surface water, can eventually be transferred into our groundwater supplies.


Water supply based on clean groundwater is both economically and environmentally desirable. Groundwater management involves a number of engineering disciplines including survey and monitoring, geological interpretation, hydrological assessments, hydro-geological modelling, chemical and geochemical assessments and optimisation.

Large subsurface constructions such as train tunnels and buildings often have a large impact on groundwater flow, especially in the construction phase, where groundwater lowering may change flow conditions considerably.

Groundwater management projects, for example the optimisation of groundwater pumping schemes, often involves the development of a groundwater model or even a hydrological model.


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AYERS, R. S.; WESTCOT, D. W. 1985. Water Quality for Agriculture. FAO Irrigation and Drainage Paper 29 Rev.1. Rome, Italy: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

BOUWER, H. 2000. Integrated water management: emerging issues and challenges. Agricultural Water Management 45: 217-228.

BUECHLER, S.; MEKALA, G. D. 2005. Local responses to water resource degradation in India: groundwater farmer innovations and the reversal of knowledge flows. Journal of Environment and Development 14(4): 410-438.

GLEICK, P. H. 2000. The changing water paradigm: A look at twenty-first century water resources development. Water International 25(1): 127-138.

GURUNADHA RAO, V. V. S.; DHAR, R. L.; SUBRAHMANYAM, K. 2001. Assessment of contaminant migration in groundwater from an industrial development area, Medak District, Andhra Pradesh. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution 128(3-4): 369-389.

KUMAR, DINESH M.; SHAH, T. N.D. Groundwater Pollution and Contamination in India: The Emerging Challenges. Available at http://www.iwmi.cgiar.org/iwmi-tata/files/pdf/ground-pollute4_FULL_.pdf (accessed on 12 September 2005).

MULLER, K.; MAGESAN, G. N.; BOLAN, N. S. 2007. A critical review of the influence of effluent irrigation on the fate of pesticides in soil. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 120(2-4): 93-116.

SUBRAHMANYAM, K.; YADAIAH, P. 2001. Assessment of the impact of industrial effluents on water quality in Patancheru and environs, Medak district, Andhra Pradesh, India. Hydrogeology Journal 9(3): 297- 312.


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