World Water Day 2023: Dharwad revived traditional ponds to recharge its groundwater

Under Jal Jeevan Mission, groundwater sources are recharged and augmented by revived ponds that act as village-level groundwater-recharge structures. Water from borewells is pumped and stored in overhead tanks

By Sushmita Sengupta, Swati Bhatia, Faraz Ahmad
Published: Wednesday 22 March 2023
Dharwad, Karnataka: Deccan Plateau

This was first published in Big change is possible: Best practices in water supply and sanitation in India

Groundwater is the major source of drinking water in villages of Dharwad district of Karnataka. Its levels are fast declining to critical levels due to overexploitation.

Karnataka has 34 talukas and factors such as population pressure, discharge of effluents and addition of agricultural chemicals into soil have contributed to deteriorating quality and plunging levelsof groundwater in the state.

Dharwad district is spread over an area of 4,273 sq km in north Karnataka. It faces water scarcity due to erratic rainfall, absence of perennial surface-water source and declining groundwater.

In the event of a good rainfall year, the groundwater is able to meet the requirement. In years of poor rainfall, however, the community faces great hardship.

Analysis of India meteorological rainfall data for five years (2016-20) in Dharwad district shows that 2016, 2017 and 2018 received rainfall far below the average annual rainfall for Karnataka (1,200 mm).

Since the district sits on hard and massive rock, the chances of natural recharge are limited. Being a groundwater-dependent region, the community faces acute shortage of water in summers due to drying wells. Women have to walk 2-3 km every day to fetch water.

Source: https://hydro.imd.gov.in/ (accessed on April 8, 2022)

The change

Dharwad district has various natural ponds and lakes that were the source of water for the community. Over the years, however, as communities explored water from borewells, the ponds were abandoned due to encroachment, silting and inadequate operation and maintenance.

Located in the depressed areas of the villages, these ponds proved to be groundwater recharge bodies when revived since the region lacks perennial sources of surface water and there has so far been no provision for getting surface water.

The Rural Drinking Water and Sanitation Department (RDWSD) of Karnataka, which works towards ensuring sanitation and providing clean drinking water to rural areas, decided to revive the natural ponds already in the villages to increase in efficacy and efficiency for rainwater harvesting and subsurface recharge.

Ponds were identified on the basis of specific parameters to get maximum impact with limited resources. Priority was given to ponds that could be restored close to their former condition to serve as groundwater recharge bodies at the village level.

(left)A public standpost for water supply in Guddad Hulikatti village, Kalghatgi taluk, Dharwad district (right) A functional household tap connection in Chalamatti village (Faraz Ahmad, CSE)

Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) was implemented in 2020 in Guddad Hulikatti village in Kalghatgi taluk. Before this, the community was dependent on borewells for water, which they had to fetch from the community standpost.

In the same year the panchayat decided to desilt non-functional natural ponds in the district. The ponds were desilted to enhance their water impounding capacity. The revived ponds were spread over an area of 25–30 acre.

In Guddad Hulikatti village, a borewell had been drilled near the pond, with a depth of 90 metre. Since the revival, the pond has had water through the year, facilitating recharge of groundwater and borewells at a distance.

The pond also supplies water during peak summers due to good recharge of groundwater. The recharged harvested water will also acts as buffer resource in years of less rainfall. Similarly, in Chalamatti village in Kalghatgi taluk, natural ponds spread over an area of 10 acre were revived and a 120-metre-deep borewell was constructed near it.

Operation and maintenance

The source of drinking water in rural Dharwad is groundwater extracted through borewell. Under Jal Jeevan Mission, groundwater sources are recharged and augmented by revived ponds that act as village-level groundwater-recharge structures. Water from borewells is pumped and stored in overhead tanks. For example, Guddad Hulikatti village constructed a tank of 50,000 litre capacity.

From the overhead tank, water is distributed to the community through a 2,920-metre-long network of pipelines to functional household-tap connections and the quantity of usage has been provisioned for 55 litre per capita per day catering to a population of 1,518.

Similarly, in Chalamatti village, the capacity of the overhead tank is 50,000 litre and length of distribution network is 3,700 metre to cater to the drinking water needs of the community of 1,300 people.

To ensure capacity enhancement of ponds, the Gram Panchayat, with the panchayat fund, will deepen and desilt the ponds every alternate year.

Every village has a Village Water Sanitation Committee (VWSC) looking after the operation and maintenance of the distribution network.

To ensure the water quality of the source, every Gram Panchayat is provided with field testing kits and its members are trained by the officials of the Rural Drinking Water and Sanitation Department.

Dharwad also has a district laboratory where periodical monitoring of the supplied water quality has been undertaken.

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