Latest Groundwater Survey and Development Agency (GSDA) data revealed that Shirur in Pune and Khandala in Satara were showing severe depletion. In October 2023, Shirur recorded a static water level at 5.41m below the ground (surface) level, plunging below the 10-year October average of 2.97m and even lower than the lowest October level of 4.91m from the ground or surface recorded in the last decade.
This signifies a substantial dip in the groundwater table in the block after monsoon 2023. The depth from the ground surface to the water level represents the static water level.
Pune district has maximum blocks (9) showing depletion as per GSDA data, followed by Jalna (7), Solapur (6) and Sangli (5). Officials said the sub-par monsoon conditions in 2023 and intensified groundwater extraction for various purposes were a few factors leading to the depletion. Fifty-four talukas were showing groundwater depletion in October 2023 in comparison to the last 10 years’ average October level. As a result, the talukas were declared drought-affected under GSDA’s Groundwater Drought Index. In October 2022, the number of such blocks in Maharashtra was just four.
In October 2023, Khandala recorded a static water level at 3.56m away from the ground level, plunging below the 10-year average of 2.01m (depth from the ground surface to the water level) and even lower than the lowest October level of 4.91m from the ground recorded in the last decade.
‘Barring 54 troubled blocks, all others have normal groundwater in state’
Two blocks – Shirur and Khandala – in Maharashtra are showing severe groundwater depletion in October 2023 in comparison to the last 10 years’ average, while moderate depletion is seen in seven blocks.
A GSDA official said barring the 54 blocks, all others are in the normal Groundwater Drought Index category in the state. “Altogether 3,688 observation wells across Maharashtra were studied in October 2023. The number of wells studied in the 54 affected talukas was 676. The data depicts the average water level in all the observation wells studied per block,” the official said.
Upendra Dhonde, a senior groundwater scientist from the Central Groundwater Board (CGWB), told TOI, “The static water level refers to the level at which water comes to rest in a well or borehole when no water is being pumped out. In other words, it is the natural level of water in the ground when the well is not in use. This measurement is typically taken by lowering a measuring device, such as a tape or electronic sensor, down into the well until it touches the water surface. The depth from the ground surface to the water level represents the static water level.”
Dhonde said there were various reasons why several blocks showed groundwater depletion in October 2023. “Less-than-normal monsoon in 2023 was one of the factors. The affected areas may also have had specific cropping pattern requiring more water. For example, parts of Baramati and Solapur received less rainfall in monsoon 2023, while the Ujjani dam levels were also not up to the mark. Water supply from the dam was restricted in case of farm use, which led farmers to extract more groundwater, especially for sugar cane farms and other water intensive crops,” Dhonde said.