Govt to levy conservation fee on groundwater extraction

Beginning 1 June 2019, exploitation of groundwater in the country will be chargeable, with some exceptions like individual households, farmers and armed forces, as the centre has decided to impose a water conservation fee (WCF) on groundwater extracted.

The Central Ground Water Authority has issued revised guidelines that aim to ensure a more robust ground water regulatory mechanism in the country. This will also comply with various directions of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and address various shortcomings in the existing guidelines of ground water extraction, a notification issued by the ministry of water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation on Wednesday stated.
The main feature of the revised guidelines is the introduction of the concept of Water Conservation Fee (WCF). The amount of WCF payable varies with the category of the area, type of industry and the quantum of ground water extraction and is designed to progressively increase from safe to over-exploited areas and from low to high water consuming industries as well as with increasing quantum of ground water extraction, according to the notification.
The aim is to discourage setting up of new industries in over-exploited and critical areas as well as act as a deterrent to large scale ground water extraction by industries, especially in over-exploited and critical areas. The WCF would also compel industries to adopt measures relating to water use efficiency and discourage the growth of packaged drinking water units, particularly in over-exploited and critical areas.
The revised guidelines include encouraging use of recycled and treated sewage water by industries, provision of action against polluting industries, mandatory requirement of digital flow meters, piezometers and digital water level recorders (with or without telemetry depending upon quantum of extraction), mandatory water audit by industries abstracting ground water 500 m3/day or more in safe and semi-critical and 200 m3/day or more in critical and over-exploited assessment units, mandatory roof top rain water harvesting except for specified industries and measures to be adopted to ensure prevention of ground water contamination in premises of polluting industries/ projects.
As per the revised guidelines, exemption from requirement of NOC will be given to agricultural users, users employing non-energised means to extract water, individual households (using less than 1 inch diameter delivery pipe) and armed forces establishments during operational deployment or during mobilisation in forward locations. Other exemptions (with certain requirements) have been granted to strategic and operational infrastructure projects for armed forces, defence and paramilitary forces establishments and government water supply agencies.
Ground water extraction in India is primarily for irrigation in agricultural activities, accounting for nearly 228 BCM (billion cubic meter), which amounts for 90 per cent of the annual ground water extraction. The remaining 10 per cent of extraction (25 BCM) is for drinking and domestic as well as industrial uses. 
Industrial use is estimated to account for only about 5 per cent of the annual ground water extraction in the country.
Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA), constituted under the Environment (Protection) Act of 1986 has the mandate of regulating ground water development and management in the country. CGWA has been regulating ground water development for its sustainable management in the country through measures such as issue of advisories, public notices, grant of no objection certificates (NOC) for ground water withdrawal.
India is the largest user of ground water in the world, extracting ground water to the tune of 253 BCM per year, which is about 25 per cent of the global ground water extraction. Out of the total of 6,584 assessment units, 1,034 have been categorised as ‘Over-exploited’  253 as ‘Critical’, 681 as ‘Semi-Critical’  and 4,520 as ‘Safe’  The remaining 96 assessment units have been classified as ‘Saline’ due to non-availability of fresh ground water due to salinity problem.