State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School


India’s Water Is Running Out

India is running “the largest water-mining project in the world”–and it cannot be sustained much longer, Columbia Water Center researcher Shama Perveen told an audience on Monday. That is mainly because farmers, who depend heavily on irrigation water drawn from underground aquifers, are using far more water than rainfall can replenish. Perveen’s talk, “Quantifying the Dimensions of Water Crisis in India,” contained a series of daunting statistics:

Satellite imagery shows dropping groundwater tables across much of northern India. (GRACE/Tiwari et al., 2009)
Satellite imagery shows dropping groundwater tables across much of northern India. (GRACE/Tiwari et al., 2009)

–India’s northern breadbasket region, home to 600 million people, lost about 60 cubic kilometers of water from its groundwater aquifers in 2002-2008.

–Farmers who used to pump water from five or 10 feet below the surface are now sometimes drilling down 200 or 300 feet.

–Unlike the United States and Australia, which have dams that can store up to 6,000 cubic meters of water for each person, India has a dismal storage capacity of 200 cubic meters per capita.

Perveen says that building dams will not suffice, because of the extreme imbalance between rains and usage; in some regions, dams would have to hold five years’ worth of rainfall just to keep up. In the future, India will have to make irrigation far more efficient, and switch from water-intensive crops like rice, she said.

Read about the Columbia Water Center’s research in India and elsewhere.

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forerunner 405cx
13 years ago

It’s impossible for any country in the world to run out of water. What is really going to change is the “price” of water. When we start turning sea or waste water into potable, then water may be as precious as oil.

Charlie Madden
13 years ago

We are working on thermal desal units – powered by renewables, without chemicals, rotating parts or filters.

These are targeted at sea water or salty bore water.

Do you know of any potential Joint Venture partners?

Best regards


Sir Charles Madden Bt BSc MTech MBA

Jim Lindelien
Jim Lindelien
13 years ago

“…200 people per square kilometer–the population density of New York City…”

This figure can not possibly be correct for NYC. Too many journalists are bad at math or don’t seem to be able to judge the reasonableness of what they are reporting.

13 years ago

it should be NY state

4 years ago

May7be water is the reason for the Kashmir dispute.