Ground water levels plummet in Andhra Pradesh

Farmers in distress dig deeper for water

By M Suchitra
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

Andhra Pradesh is heading for an acute water crisis owing to ground water depletion. The latest data compiled by the ground water department reveals that water levels across all districts in the state have fallen critically.


The study was carried out between November 2010 and November 2011, in which all the 23 districts were surveyed. While the water table in the state as a whole has dropped by an average of 2.53 metre, it has dropped by 3.88 metre in Hyderabad city. Prakasam tops the list of districts where water levels have declined steeply. Water level has dropped by 5.32 metre below the earlier levels in this district. Ranga Reddy ranks second in the list with a drop of 5.28 metre in its water table. Among the three regions in the state, Telangana has been worst hit, followed by coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema.

50,000 new bore wells a year

According to K Venu Gopal, joint director of state ground water department, the main reason for the depletion of water table is scanty rainfall this year. The state government had recently declared more than three-fourth of its administrative blocks (mandals)—876 out of 1,128—drought-hit. These areas face a rainfall deficit of 20 per cent (see tables). Anantapur, Nalgonda, Karimnagar, Medak, Mahbubnagar, Khammam, Kurnool, Kadapa, Chittoor, Krishna, Guntur, Srikakulam and Visakhapatnam are the other districts where ground water levels have fallen substantially over the past one year due to drought.

“Along with shortage in rainfall, exploitation of ground water for irrigation, drinking and other purposes are steadily increasing,” says Gopal. The state has more than 2.9 million borewells, and on an average 50,000 new borewells are being installed every year in the state.

While in November 2010, in Hyderabad city, ground water was available at a depth of 5.2 metre, the water table dipped to 8.90 metre in November 2011. Though shortage in rainfall could be partly blamed for this, the increasing concrete cover in the city and the silt formation in the water bodies are also reducing the efficiency with which ground water is recharged, says Gopal. Almost all of the tanks and lakes in the city are laden with silt and other debris.

Vicious cycle

The water crisis will have a very serious impact on the farm sector. One of the main reasons for farm suicides in the state is inadequate irrigation facilities and failure of borewells.  As per Agriculture Census 2010-11, 1.85 million hectare (ha) of land is irrigated by borewells and 616,000 ha by other wells.

“When there are no appropriate irrigation facilities and prospects of tank irrigation is limited by silting of water bodies, what can farmers do other than dig borewells?” asks S Malla Reddy, state president of CPI(M)-affiliated All India Kisan Sabha. With more wells being dug, water level is fast depleting. This, in turn, means more deep digging because water can now only be struck much deeper down. With deeper digging, the costs of borewells increase.

“When borewells fail, farmers go on digging new ones,” points out Reddy. There are many farmers who have dug as many as 100 borewells. Finally, they get caught in debt traps and commit suicide. In 2010, as per the National Crimes Records Bureau figures, 2,525 farmers committed suicide in Andhra Pradesh.

Average depth of water level (in metre)
  Nov 10 Nov 11 Fluctuation 
Andhra Pradesh 5.97 8.5  2.53
Hyderabad 5.02  8.90  3.88
Telangana  6.64 9.33 2.69
Coastal Andhra 4.15 6.68  2.53
Rayalaseema 8.33 10.75 2.42
South west monsoon
(June 1, 2011- September 30, 2011)
Average rainfall received: 532.2 mm
Normal rainfall: 624.1 mm
Deviation: -15%
North-west monsoon
(October 1, 2011- December 31, 2011)
Average rainfall: 102.8 mm
Normal rainfall: 207 mm
Deviation: -50 %
(As on November 27, 2011)

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  • Government of Andhra Pradesh

    Government of Andhra Pradesh brought out WALTA Act as back as 2002 to stop indiscriminate digging of wells. Also Central government put restrictions on digging of wells in black zones. But unfortunately there is no ÔÇ£specified authorityÔÇØ to implement these on ground. In fact on TV Channel discussion programme on groundwater crisis, I shared the Dias with two farmers, one from Anantapur district and another from Nalgonda district both have dug more than 70 bore wells ÔÇô the later proudly tells he spent more than fifty lakhs rupees ÔÇô they wanted to be recognized by Guinness record. Nobody stopped them. This is the present state of affair in groundwater area as groundwater is nobodyÔÇÖs property and is available free. It was observed that the area cultivated under one well/motor reduced from 2.5 acres in 1973-74 to 0.5 acres in 1995-96, during which period digging of wells increased steeply with power availability to wells ÔÇô earlier used animal power with less water intensive crops. The fallacy with power driven well irrigation is crops are grown under high water intensive condition, like paddy, sugarcane and cash crops like cotton, groundnut using highly subsidized chemical inputs. Though it was suggested to grow less water intensive crops and not to grow high water intensive crops under power driven well irrigation, and follow micro irrigation practices ÔÇô which is also highly subsidized ÔÇô but politicians gave political colour to such advices and thus this scheme suffered. The traditional recharging of groundwater disappeared through deforestation, destruction of water bodies, etc ÔÇô in Andhra Pradesh area under water bodies (tanks) irrigation is reduced by more than 50%. There are two important ways to overcome this problem, namely, through cooperative farming under organic inputs and restoring water bodies that help recharging of groundwater.

    On Dec. 28-29, 2012 at all India Seminar on "Conserve Water - Preserve Climate", on lead paper presented reduction in inflows in to two drinking water reservoirs -- Himayatsagar & Osmansagar -- even though there was no decreasing trend in rainfall during 1961 to 2009 -- inflows reduced as - 3.3715 x + 191.47 and -4.0684 x + 210 --. These are due to several factors but the main factor is groundwater recharging action.

    Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

    Posted by: Anonymous | 9 years ago | Reply
  • Most of the concerned

    Most of the concerned officers forgot the WALTA Act. They kept it in the dustbin.Govt must take immediate action to implement WALTA Act in rural and urban areas. Urban area people, farmers and,politicians also cooperate to implement WALTA Act.


    Posted by: Anonymous | 7 years ago | Reply
  • Cloud seeding to fight water scarcity
    A.p. state development planning society has highlighted on the impending water shortage in the coming days . It has suggested measures to augment water levels by conservation, augmentation and management of water resources by rain water harvesting and rejuvenation of Tanks and Lakes. Surprisingly it has omitted to highlight that how such a water scarcity problems are tackled by other people in different countries across the world. This is the bane of educated experts who never apply their intelligence to solve the life and death issues of the people even though water is life sustaining resource for farmers farm- workers and industries. APSDPS has kept the state cabinet ministers and secretaries to the Government in great ignorance by disallowing them to know the scientific facts that about 50 countries in the world are using cloud seeding operations to fight the drought conditions in their countries. A.P. state Governments and its educated secretaries and legislators know that cloud seeding operations boldly implemented during the 5 year period from 2005 to 2009 had given extra annual rainfall of about 10% as per the scientific records available in the Jawaharlal Nehru Technical university at Hyderabad. China ,U.S.A, Canada, Is rail and other countries are reaping the benefits of cloud seeding for the last 40 to 60 years. It is a pity that Andhra Pradesh Farmers are not provided with the information on how 37,000 Farmers and Technicians in China are provided with Training and equipment to harness the sky water in the clouds and obtain 25 to 40% extra annual rain fall and obtain enough water of 1800 T.M.C. annually at a cost benefit ratio of 1:30.
    If there are still honest and patriotic legislators in the state they should exert pressure on the innocent Chief minister to take up cloud seeding as he knows that even during the time of N.T. Rama rao the farmer minister Mr. Paritala Ravi used cloud seeding to augment annual rainfall in Anantapur which received 50% extra rainfall by cloud seeding . Let not Mr. Chandra babu Naidu the misled on this issue by the secretaries to the Government and the wested interests among scientists and Businessman, who live by making money by selling water through tankers at a high cost. If necessary good experts in this field like Dr. J.V.M.naidu and professor T.Shivaji RAo of Visakhapatnam may be contacted .
    Smt. J.Jagadamba.,
    Door No. 2-40-5,
    Alcot gardens,
    Pin :533101.

    Posted by: Shivajirao Tipirneni | 4 years ago | Reply
  • less water consuming crops are to rotated with more waer required crops

    Posted by: Ramadas | 4 years ago | Reply