People managing the invisible: participatory groundwater monitoring in India

Mr Hari Ram Gadri has been a farmer in a small village called Dharta in Rajasthan, India, for four decades. His livelihood and his family’s wellbeing depend on his ability to grow crops both for sustenance and to pay for his children’s education and other needs.

Unfortunately, much of India is subject to significant droughts and other climate change impacts, making farming a challenge in many parts of the country. Millions of private wells have been constructed by farmers to access additional groundwater supplies for crops, but this has led to their overexploitation. And along with being a short-term and costly solution, there’s never any guarantee that groundwater will be available in these wells when urgently needed.

“I always used to worry every season that I will run out of water for my crop and my animals; how will I support my family, children’s education and other family needs,” says Hari.

“But things started to change when the MARVI project came to our village, thanks to the Australian people and the local project team”.

The MARVI (Managing Aquifer Recharge and Sustaining Groundwater Use through Village-level Intervention) project, supported by the Australian Water Partnership, has given farmers like Hari valuable knowledge and tools to enable them to better monitor, use and manage groundwater at the village level.

The farmers—known as Bhujal Jankaars—have learnt how to manage groundwater recharge pits, how to protect their wells from contamination and how to use the MyWell groundwater monitoring app–which provides valuable information on water quality and quantity within the wells. The information enables farmers to share water and make an informed decision on which well to withdraw the water from, avoiding overexploitation.

Hariram Ji Using MyWell App“We have learnt step-by-step how to measure the groundwater levels, rainfall, water level in dams and check water quality,” said Hari.

“We also learnt about mapping, different types of rocks, and other concepts in a way we can understand.”

Hari is one of an estimated 100,000 people in India who have benefited from MARVI through improved water planning and allocation. The impacts are life-changing—not only supporting health, wellbeing and livelihoods—but also empowering rural communities who have long felt powerless and offering new hope.

“Before the MARVI project, I used to tell young people in my village that there is no hope for the future by staying in the village and they should go to the nearby city to find jobs because groundwater is scarce and the erratic monsoon doesn’t help much,” says Hari.

“But now I have changed my mind and think there is hope and there is no need to leave the village.”

“If we can do what we did through the MARVI project in our village, farmers in other parts of the country will be more knowledgeable about groundwater, they will be more cooperative and they will be more willing to take action to solve groundwater problems of the country.”

Learn more about our work on implementing MARVI in India:

Feature image: Screenshots from the MyWell monitoring app / In-article image: Hariram Ji using the MyWell App (Source: Professor Basant Maheshwari, Western Sydney University)
Copy link