LAP Lambert Academic Publishing, Germany (2017-05-26), pp. 100, ISBN-13: 978-3-330-32219-6.

by Prof. (Dr.) Partha Sarathi Datta

All countries are confronted with water scarcity of varying types. The daunting biggest challenge for the authorities is in protecting groundwater from depletion and pollution, and making sound managing decisions on complex issues/activities that may affect water supply at local and basin scale. For short-term situation management when water supplies are affected, the managers usually adopt approaches, which involve eliminating immediate, unacceptable impacts on human and the environment, groundwater-use restrictions, regulation, balancing time and resources. However, these may require more research, time, regulations, funding, technology, etc., and be expensive/complex. This book identifies the issues that affect water supply; and makes scientific endeavors to improve all stakeholders’ awareness and understanding of real groundwater problems, and suggests governance approaches by relevant policies, with strong peoples’ participation efforts by behavioral change. The analysis may be especially useful to professionals in water governance and communication for long-term solutions to ensure sustained water supply, implementing water resources protection strategies for public benefit.


Water has always been an essential component for survival of human, animal or plant. Its supply is diminishing very rapidly. Besides increasing availability of water in quantity, maintenance of water quality has become an increasing focus of international concern. The importance of water in the overall development process has been increasingly recognized during the last three decades. Harvesting, conservation and reuse of water has taken place to improve water use. Many flexible approaches to policies and planning in India around 1960s to 1980s resulted in an agricultural revolution; so also in many other parts of the world. In spite of these commendable efforts, much remains to be done to use water resources optimally and efficiently on a sustained basis. Because, water is being generally abused, often ignored and taken for granted. For communicating the value of water, it is essential to examine the occurrence of water, its conservation, its distribution and its use for irrigation, industrial developments and domestic purposes.

With a purely scientific outlook about such a complex subject as ‘Groundwater Governance’, writing a comprehensive multidisciplinary book is a daunting task. The book is especially intended to discuss the real life challenges on multi dimensional groundwater issues, with a down-to-earth approach, aiming to improve water and environmental security, and to share views, recalling the Author’s experiences in innovative pioneering cutting-edge research and technology development, higher education and in policy and program formulation, execution and appraisal; each pursued in national, regional, and international levels and capacities, through interactions with national and international experts and water agencies. The author’s wide interest, knowledge, understanding, insight on the water sector and involvement on water governance issues, especially about the largest water use sector ‘agriculture’, flourished over four decades of successful professional career in coveted leadership capacities in different organizations, and extensive pioneering in-field ground truth investigations to assess groundwater recharge and pollutions characteristics, residence time, turnover time and flow velocity in the aquifers, groundwater-riverwater interactions and influent/effluent seepage, using multi-tracer isotopes in fourteen river basins of India under semi-arid and arid conditions. This book will provide readers better exposure to know intriguing development, management and approaches related to needs, issues, policies, practices, and institutions. It is hoped that all the readers with a uniformly common multi-disciplinary, multi-sectorial and multidimensional background, would appreciate the efforts with an open mind, besides willingness to welcome and consider radical thoughts.

Although the title of the book refers specifically to governance and supply, the scope of the book extends considerably also about its natural properties and demand, environment and pollution, politics and psychology. The Author’s scientific and technological acumen combines with rich, hands-on experience in the sector and the result is a thorough compendium of all aspects of groundwater. The book no doubt a treasure trove for water researchers and managers, but it also is a must-read for any layman who simply wants to know where his food and water are coming from. The book begins with Acknowledgements, Foreword, Preface, Table of Contents, followed by six chapters, suggested readings, and a glossary of terms. The preface outlines the Author’s long and accomplished career and provides a snapshot of the valuable pearls of knowledge he has picked on the way. The book not only lays facts threadbare for readers to see; but also uncompromisingly forthright remarks that “development in efforts and difficulties encountered in understanding groundwater… are yet far away from consensus due to… fear and lack of courage on the part of people… to rebel in favor of scientific logic, arguments and truth.”

The Chapter-1 Introduction describes General significance of water; Water Availability – Past Present and Future; Available Water resources in India, Groundwater: physical and political typologies, Conventional and Advanced methods of assessing groundwater situation, Groundwater occurrence, distribution, renewal, quality, geo-hydrological attributes of water systems, etc. The Chapter provides a systematic ‘balance sheet’ of water resources (both groundwater and surface water), water availability per capita across time, and water utilization patterns, an introduction to conventional groundwater assessment methods along with their limitations, and a comparative description of groundwater recharge rates across India. In India, due to increasing population and multi-sectorial demand for water; the water supply is multidimensional, linked to reliable assessment of available water, its scope for distribution, augmentation, reuse/recycling; and protection from depletion and degradation. Continued scarcity and degradation of water complicated by the greater variability and intensity of weather patterns has become an increasingly serious concern. With quick and effective definitions and visuals, the chapter simplifies a complex resource for peoples’ understanding, thus bridging a fundamental knowledge gap. In most places, low annual recharge (<5-11% of rainfall) to shallow groundwater suggests limited renewal potential. Over 70% of surface water being polluted, groundwater supports >80% of water supplies and 60-90% of irrigated agriculture, although, groundwater is polluted in many parts. In this brief background, this book seeks to analyze how groundwater relates to organizational and political processes within and outside formal norms and regulation, how these processes interact, and may change over time, based on extensive investigations in different river basins, and systematically arrives at the conclusion that groundwater is the only resource that “can meet the large-scale water need for food security and urban drinking water supply”.

The Chapter-2 Synthesis of Water Information – Indian Scenario discusses a thorough analysis of crucial aspects of the scenario, causes of water demand, over-exploitation, recharge, pollution, etc.; Causes of Increasing Water Demand; Status and Reasons for water scarcity; Reasons for Over-Dependence on Groundwater; What is over-exploitation of groundwater? Reasons of Unbalanced Groundwater Recharge; How to determine groundwater safe yield? Reasons of Groundwater pollution; Can rainwater-harvesting help in arresting groundwater table decline? For socio-economic development, the book makes a strong case for high efficiency and equitability of groundwater use in agriculture and overall water management, which seems to have not received adequate attention in India from the point of management response requirements. Groundwater depletes due to over-pumping using large amounts of electricity produced using surface water in hydropower stations. Most reports tend to be incomplete or superficial, and quantitative data is sparse and fragmented, and potential costs and benefits of the alternatives in a hydrologic setting need to be carefully evaluated, before any effective policy decision could be taken. The chapter notes very pragmatically that the ease, combined with the economic lucrativity of water-intensive crops, comes at a very high socio-economic and environmental cost that cannot be tackled by technology alone. The developments in efforts and difficulties encountered in understanding the groundwater for over decades of human history are yet far away from consensus; due to various dogma, divide, blind faith, and above all fear and lack of courage on the part of people to cross the various social barriers arising out from the interpretations to rebel in favor of scientific logic, arguments and truth. The chapter quickly analyses the viability of rainwater harvesting for tackling groundwater depletion, but concludes that it is not adequate. “Climate resilient groundwater management” then is the solution.

The Chapter-3 Sustainability Issues on Water describes about Definition of Sustainability; How to Sustain Water Availability; To achieve sustainable water supply, development and management of these resources must be based on adequate knowledge of clear aggregate situation of groundwater system, considering environmental, geographical, economic, social, and political aspects, and govern social/practical actions/decisions by ethical values (honesty, trust, reliability, transparency, etc.), giving more importance to citizens’ welfare and economic development before private interest/gain. Effective sustainable water supply demands clear evaluation and understanding of the linkages between various stakeholders. The unsustainability of our current governing institutions and technological systems is an eye opener: it is because they were designed and built for permanence and reliability, and not change, that they are unable to adapt with the changing times. The chapter also painstakingly unravels the intricate layers that make up the socio-economic context behind overexploitation of groundwater and resulting and potential conflicts, effectively driving the point that water conflicts are not just about water, and that they need to be tackled from a perspective that spans beyond engineering and economics.


Chapter-4 Water governance describes Multiple Approaches to Water Governance; Historical Approach for Water Management; Principles for Groundwater Governance; The Missing Elements in Groundwater Governance. Based on multi-faceted analysis, the chapter compiles the following principles for groundwater governance: sustainability, equitable access, accountability, transparency, participation and representation, and integration; and emphasizes on three more: environmental protection, economic efficiency, and knowledge management. One of the unique insights offered by this book is the distinction between ‘right to water’ and ‘water rights’, built out of a unique perspective and deep technological understanding and social empathy, the divided rules and responsibilities are between the central and state authorities, and the socio-economic impacts of various aspects of groundwater. Since, the hydrogeological, social, economic, cultural and political factors vary greatly at local/regional scales; and the aggregate impact of millions of individual pumping decisions is difficult to assess, no single template for management can be developed. Poor management has resulted in conflicts among different sectors. With uncertainty about future rainfall and a likelihood of continued annual increases in abstraction, the groundwater systems resilience to change by the freshwater volumes, and the aquifer system likely long-term recharge is a useful lens through which groundwater resource can be examined. To reduce water consumption and wasteful utilisation, practical measures should be strict regulatory enforcement to groundwater extraction; wastes discharge into hydrological system; identify pollution sources, contain pollution spreading from sources; develop vulnerability maps; conserve flood water in aquifers under floodplains and delineate potential recharge/protection zones. It is desirable to recognize these inextricable linkages, and create public awareness and capacity building for a new vision for groundwater governance. The book also discusses about the role of the private sector albeit with a guarded approach, fully knowing the socio-economic, environmental and cultural effects of uncontrolled privatization.

Within the broad principles, the book mentions many more equally pertinent ones: subsidiarity, hydrological units of management (instead of administrative ones), precaution against over-exploitation, the “polluter pays” principle, and importance of knowledge generation and capacity building. There is a frank agreement that not all of these principles are easily applicable as there are many factors on ground working against them. This is further evident from the chapter analysis of the politician-bureaucrat-contractor nexus, with no mincing of words in pointing out the level of corruption and vested interests in the sector, the difficulty in aligning groundwater processes with dynamic political cycles, with the former usually losing out. With a firm support of technology as a tool for reform, the book believes that “finding the right technology or expertise, and precisely when and where it’s needed’, who needs the expertise, and when and where they need it’ are the problems, and a bottom-up approach in its implementation, along with adequate human resource development, budgeting and political support is the right way to harness technological solutions.

The Chapter-5 Proposed activities in India and future scope aims to provide the desirable activities, for wiser management of the India’s water resources, and to bring awareness on water related issues and aspects. The book intends to highlight the progress of groundwater management for water supply, Possible Options to groundwater governance for sustained water supply; Behavioral Change for Groundwater Governance; Behavioral Change for Perception Management; Behavioral Change for Water Rights; Behavioral Change to Manage Water Demand; Behavioral Change for Water Allocation; Ethical issues in Groundwater Governance and Use. The Chapter aims to develop relationships of water supply, policies, access arrangements, and need for better governance, and the service provision into the ways that people get sustainable adequate supply, through change in human behavior. The fifth chapter is essentially a compilation of recommendations. Some of the measures recommended are: scientific and socio-economic awareness, efficient transfer from areas of abundance to areas of scarcity, modification and regulation of water rights, policy and planning linkages with other related sectors, increase in private sector involvement, and an integrated and efficient supply system. The chapter particularly focuses on groundwater ethics, i.e. incorporating the “complementarity and interconnection between natural system and human system” into policies and actions, and behavioral change through education, media, stakeholder engagement, decentralization of power, and accommodating diverse scientific viewpoints. The chapter also outlines a societal role for geoscientists to promote sustainable development and research of groundwater.


The Chapter-6 Concluding Remarks provides humble concluding remarks and future scope, summarizing the climatic, technological, social and governance issues regarding groundwater and presses for education, technical assistance and research in order to improve groundwater governance in the country. The book offers information for how to move forward in a collaborative, cooperative way to develop appropriate policies for ensuring sustained water supplies. It reiterates the importance of establishing effective governance systems and influencing social consciousness and perception on the use, ownership and conservation of groundwater. The book ends on a sombre note – with a heartfelt attempt to bring the dedicated but low-profile water researcher to limelight. Groundwater cannot be seen, and hence the impacts of actions on its quality or quantity or not visible, and hence not in public consciousness. Yet, from beneath the surface, away from sights and minds, it continues to shape how humanity survive and prosper. It is high time that people learn to recognize and value this resource, and conserve it for future generations. Not doing so spells only conflict and consequently, doom. The book ends with the list of Suggested Readings, which follows a suitable extension, guaranteed to expand one’s horizons on the issue; and the Glossary of Terms.


Educated at Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. M.Sc. (1970); Ph.D. (1975). Prof. (Dr.) Partha Sarathi Datta has forty years professional leadership experience for overall planning, co-ordination, and innovative cutting edge scientific inputs for peaceful uses of Isotopes and Radiation in hydrological sciences, geosciences and agricultural sciences, aiming at improving water and environmental security, in innovative pioneering cutting-edge research and technology development, in higher education and human resources development and in policy and program formulation, execution and appraisal; each pursued in national, regional, and international levels. Presently, Prof. Datta is Independent Consultant on Water and Environment.  He held senior level coveted positions as Project Director (Nuclear Research Laboratory), Professor and Principal Scientist (Hydrology), Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi; and Member Secretary and Scientist In-Charge, High Level Technical Committee on Hydrology, Govt. of India, for the International Hydrological Program (IHP), and Asian Regional Coordination Committee on Hydrology (UNESCO). He also served as Scientist In-Charge (Technology Assessment) at NISTADS, CSIR, New Delhi; and Visiting Scientist Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad. He steered the senior level leadership by multi-disciplinary and multi-Institutional Projects on: (a) Assessment of Groundwater recharge in river basins; (b) EIA and GW vulnerability to Climate, over-exploitation and pollution; and Management; and (c) Gamma irradiation and EM-Energy for development of crop variety with high yield, nutrition and growth; Post-harvest
storage enhancement of fruits and vegetables. As Faculty Member, Environmental Sciences, he contributed to PG Teaching on ‘Environmental Sciences; ‘Environmental Impact and Risk Assessment’; and ‘Environmental Hydrology and Economics’.

Research Contributions: As Principal Investigator, Dr. Datta has undertaken extensive outreach field Initiatives and made important original contributions for the Assessment of Groundwater Recharge and Pollution Characteristics, Mechanism, Dynamics: Delineation of GW Recharge Zones, and Influent/Effluent Seepage, in many River Basins. Other research Themes: Groundwater Provenance, Governance: Groundwater Assessment, Management and Development; Climate Resilient Groundwater Management Strategies; Groundwater Vulnerability to Impacts of over-exploitation, climate and pollution; Water Use efficiency; Groundwater potential under river floodplains; Watershed Management; Groundwater ethics for sustainability; Geo-ethics for Hazards/Disaster Management; Water treatment and Water Supply. Paleo-climate Reconstruction and Ensemble Models on Climate; Environmental Impact Assessment and Technology Assessment of Water Resources and Industrial Projects; International/ National Laws on Environment Protection, Control of Hazardous Chemicals, Water and Air pollution; Gamma irradiation and EM-Energy for development of crop variety with high yield, nutrition and growth; Post-harvest
storage enhancement of fruits and vegetables. Publications: Research Papers – One hundred and fifteen; Books: Five, including ‘Better Governance only can Ensure Sustained Water Supply’ 2017 (Lambert Academic Publishing, Germany); Book Chapters: Twelve; Technical Reports: Five; Technical Bulletins: Two.

Honors: In recognition of his immense contribution to new knowledge, and science-led alleviation of water scarcity in India and the Asia Pacific Region, he has been honored as Expert Member/Consultant to provide Expert Advisory Services to National and International Agencies including: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Vienna, Austria; Department of Ground Water, Thailand; Adviser (Water Harvesting, Hydrology), Ernst & Young LLP; Infollion Research Services Pvt. Ltd.; GOI Deptt. of Environment; Central Pollution Control Board; Central Water Commission; Central Ground Water Board; Punjab Water Resources Directorate; Haryana State Minor Irrigation and Tube well Corporation; and Gujarat Water Resources Development Corporation; BIS Panel on Water; Sri Ram Institute for Industrial Research (2001-09); Fluorosis Research and Rural Development Foundation, CSE, Delhi and many other Global NGOs. He received many Award/Recognition for Recharge and Contamination Related Groundwater Protection Strategies. He is a member of the International Association for Promoting Geoethics.

Keynote/Guest Speaker/Chairman/President of Session:

  • Organized one-week IAEA Regional Training Course ‘Isotopes Applications for Flood Risk Mitigation’, in Bangkok, Thailand, with participation of twenty-two countries, and delivered nine lectures (2015).
  • 11th International Symposium ‘Southeast Asian Water Environment’, Bangkok, Nov 26-28, 2014.
  • XII International Association for Engineering Geology (IAEG) Congress, Torino (Italy), Sep 15-19, 2014.
  • International Indo-African Workshop on ‘Integrated Water Resources Management’, Delhi, Dec 24, 2014.
  • 2nd, 3rd, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th World AQUA Congress, Nov. 26-28, 2008, Dec 2-4, 2009, Dec 13, 2013; Nov 21, 2014; Dec 21, 2014, Nov 2015, Nov, 2016, Nov, 2017, World Aqua Foundation, New Delhi.
  • Aid International Development Forum (Water Security Summit 2014, Malaysia, Apr-23-24, 2014.
  • International Conf. ‘HydroPredict 2012’, Vienna, Austria, Sep 21-25, 2012; (Climate Ensemble Models).
  • 3rd Multi-Disciplinary Conf. ‘Hydrology and Ecology’, Vienna, Austria, May 2-5, 2011.
  • 9th Symp. Southeast Asian Water Environment, Bangkok, Thailand, Dec 1-3, 2011;
  • International Conf. ‘Study of Environmental Changes Using Isotope Techniques’, IAEA, Vienna. Apr 2001;
  • International Conf. ‘Desertification’, Zayed International Prize on Environment, Dubai, UAE. Feb, 2000;
  • Symp on ‘Isotope Techniques in Water Resources Development and Management’, IAEA, Vienna, May 1999.