Ground Water Extraction: Government notifies revised guidelines; to levy fee on water extraction from June 2019

The Central Ground Water Authority of the Union Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation on December 12, 2018 notified revised guidelines for ground water extraction.

The guidelines were revised in the wake of the directions issued by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to address various shortcomings in the existing guidelines of ground water extraction.

The revised guidelines, which will be effective from June 1, 2019, aim to ensure a more robust ground water regulatory mechanism in the country.

Concept of Water Conservation Fee

One of the important features of the revised guidelines is the introduction of the concept of Water Conservation Fee (WCF), the fee charged on extraction of ground water.

The WCF payable varies with the category of the area, type of industry and the quantum of ground water extraction.

The fee may progressively increase from safe to over-exploited areas and from low to high water consuming industries as well as with increasing quantum of ground water extraction.

The high rates of WCF are expected to discourage setting up of new industries in over-exploited and critical areas as well as may limit large scale ground water extraction by industries, especially in over-exploited and critical areas.

The WCF would also compel industries to adopt measures relating to water use efficiency and discourage the growth of packaged drinking water units, particularly in over-exploited and critical areas.

Salient features of the revised guidelines

  • Encourage use of recycled and treated sewage water by industries
  • Provision of action against polluting industries
  • Mandatory requirement of digital flow meters, piezometers and digital water level recorders, with or without telemetry depending upon quantum of extraction
  • Mandatory water audit by industries abstracting ground water 500 m3/day or more in safe and semi-critical area and 200 m3/day or more in critical and over-exploited assessment units
  • Mandatory roof top rain water harvesting except for specified industries
  • Measures to be adopted to ensure prevention of ground water contamination in premises of polluting industries/ projects

Exemptions under the revised guidelines

  • The revised guidelines exempt the requirement of NOC for agricultural users, users employing non-energised means to extract water, individual households (using less than 1 inch diameter delivery pipe) and Armed Forces Establishments during operational deployment.
  • Other exemptions have been granted to strategic and operational infrastructure projects for Armed Forces, Defence and Paramilitary Forces Establishments and Government water supply agencies.

Ground water extraction in India

– Ground water extraction in India is primarily for irrigation in agricultural activities, accounting for nearly 228 BCM (Billion Cubic Meter), which amounts to 90 percent of the annual ground water extraction.

– The remaining 10 percent of extraction that is 25 BCM is for drinking , domestic as well as industrial uses.

– The industrial use is estimated to account for only about 5 percent of the annual ground water extraction in the country.

– India is the largest user of ground water in the world, extracting ground water to the tune of 253 BCM per year, which is about 25 percent of the global ground water extraction.

Categorisation of water extraction units

Out of the total 6584 assessment units, 1034 are categorised as ‘Over-exploited’, 253 as ‘Critical’, 681 as ‘Semi-Critical’ and 4520 as ‘Safe’.

The remaining 96 assessment units have been classified as ‘Saline’ due to non-availability of fresh ground water due to salinity problem.

The Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA), constituted under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, has the mandate of regulating ground water development and management in the country.

CGWA has been regulating ground water development for its sustainable management in the country through measures such as issue of advisories, public notices, granting No Objection Certificates (NOC) for ground water withdrawal.

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