Australian Aquifers help recharge and reuse India’s groundwater

An ACIAR-​supported project led by Dr Robyn Johnston and Dr Prabhakar Sharma has successfully developed a system to store more groundwater in the southern part of the Indian state of Bihar to help alleviate water scarcity.

This project is part of the Sustainable Development Investment Portfolio (SDIP) program, which is jointly funded by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and ACIAR.

Image source: ACIAR

This Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) system has put more water into an aquifer located at a pilot site which is one of the most water-challenged regions in India.

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AT this site there is often not enough water for essential needs of the villagers during the dry season.

Image source: A diagram of the Aquifer Storage and Recovery system – Nalanda University

The system comprising of a deep recharge pit connected to a borewell allows the aquifer to be recharged in the wet season.

Image source: Dr Robyn Johnston – ACIAR

Dr Robyn Johnston who manages the ACIAR Water Research Program said: 

“This project aims to demonstrate small-scale, simple technology that allows excess rainfall during the monsoon to be retained and stored as shallow groundwater, then recovered during the dry season for domestic use or irrigation.”

The Australian system is low cost and built with locally available materials.

Farmers were trained to take collective action to maintain the recharge pit of the Aquifer Storage and Recovery system.

Image source: Nalanda University – Twitter

The project team will continue to refine the system through PhD and Masters students at Nalanda University.

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Image source: Dr Prabhakar Sharma – Nalanda University

Dr Prabhakar Sharma, Assistant Professor from Nalanda University, who led the project said:

“We are committed to long-term, multidisciplinary studies on the food systems of the region, and aquifer storage and recovery forms a key component in this endeavour. Water quality, ecosystem services, and institutional sustainability are some of the future areas of research.”

The students also utilise the database created by the project team, which captured water level, water quality, groundwater usage, farming practices and more.

Image source: Dr Kuhu Chatterjee – ACIAR SDIP

Dr Kuhu Chatterjee, ACIAR SDIP Program Coordinator, who is based in India said:

“We’re really impressed with the results so far and are pleased to see local farming communities buying-in to the new approach.”

In the long run, such Australia-led projects could be a way to help store valuable water, revive failed bore wells and protect farmers in India.

Image source: SDIP