Improving Water Resource Planning and Management using Geospatial Technologies

Water is among the most valuable natural resources on the planet, critical for not just human civilization and ecosystems to survive, but also for agricultural, industrial, household, recreational and environmental activities.

The stress on water resources will continue to increase because of rapid population growth in India and the world. Yet, with water resources remaining largely limited, there is a pressing need to monitor this precious resource and gather such data that might help stakeholders build efficient water management strategies and infrastructures. Geospatial technologies and data have a critical role to play in this regard.

The Case for Geospatial Technology Use in the Indian Water Sector

India, now the most populous country, makes up more than 18% of the total world population. However, it only possesses 2.4% of the planet’s land area and 4% of its renewable water resources. The prospect of water stress is very real for India because of the country’s rapidly urbanizing population and the tremendous pressure it places on the country’s limited and vulnerable water supplies, which are already stressed and depleted and at critical levels of groundwater.

Such widespread water scarcity casts a shadow over India’s economic expansion and prosperity plans. Water scarcity may hinder development, result in food shortages, increase dependence on imports, worsen regional conflicts, and breed other fundamental societal issues. Without a doubt, integrated water management is key to reducing poverty, maintaining the environment, and fostering sustainable economic growth in the country.

Geospatial technologies serve as a befitting solution in this regard, providing precise, continuous, and real-time data for effective water resource planning and management. India’s central and state governments have been deploying Geospatial technologies to collect, process, and analyze spatial data for a better understanding of water resources and making informed decisions about water management at all levels.

Overview of Geospatial sector and Water ecosystem; Source: AGI Water Report

Solutions Offered by Geospatial Technologies for the Water Sector

Geospatial technologies including remote sensing and GIS prove to be valuable resources for water management. For instance, remote sensing data can be used to monitor water resources, such as rivers, lakes, and reservoirs, and monitor weather patterns, such as precipitation and evaporation, which are important factors in water management.

GIS, on the other hand, can be used to create maps of water resources, such as aquifers, rivers, and lakes. It may also be used to analyze spatial data, such as land use, soil type, and terrain, which can impact water resources.

Due to its ability to allow for the geographical identification of water sources, significant issues, and a more objective characterization of priority activities, geospatial technology is used extensively for integrated water management. Geospatial tools and technologies provide accurate knowledge of natural resources, including information on variables like rainfall, the availability of surface and groundwater resources, maps of land use and land cover, elevations, slopes, land surface temperatures, evapotranspiration, biomass, etc. for planning purposes.

Source: AGI India Water Report

Following are some of the other prevalent applications of Geospatial technologies for the water sector:

Water Allocation

Water allocation involves determining how much water can be used by different users, such as agriculture, industry, and households. Geospatial technologies can help water managers better understand water availability and demand and make informed decisions about water allocation.

Monitoring Water Quality

Water quality is important for human health and the environment. Geospatial technologies can be used to monitor water quality in rivers, lakes, and other water bodies. This data can be used to identify sources of pollution and develop strategies to improve water quality.

Groundwater Management

Groundwater is an important source of water for many communities, but it is also a finite resource. Geospatial technologies can be used to monitor groundwater levels and recharge rates. This information can be used to develop strategies to sustainably manage groundwater resources.

Flood Management

Floods can cause significant damage to infrastructure and property and can also threaten human lives. Geospatial technologies can be used to monitor weather patterns and predict floods. This information can be used to develop early warning systems and to prepare for floods.

Water Conservation

Water conservation is important for reducing the demand for water resources and ensuring their sustainability. Geospatial technologies can be used to identify areas where water use is high and develop strategies to reduce water use. For example, GIS can be used to identify areas where irrigation is being used inefficiently and develop strategies to improve irrigation efficiency.

Combating Climate Change

Geospatial technologies are also important for water management in areas affected by climate change. Climate change is expected to have a significant impact on water resources, including changes in precipitation patterns, increased evaporation rates, and changes in the timing of runoff. Geospatial technologies can be used to monitor these changes and develop strategies to adapt to them.

Geospatial Technologies an Indispensable Resource for Water Resources Management

The critical role of Geospatial technologies in improving and sustaining water resources management is already well established. Apart from enabling asset and resource data collection, these technologies also facilitate analysis, interpretation, reporting, monitoring, planning, decision-making, and taking informed action in an integrated manner. By doing so, Geospatial technologies enable increased process efficiency, quicker project deployment, and improved resource management for the water sector.

Users today can conduct a range of visualisation and analytics thanks to the growing sophistication of Geospatial technologies when integrated with digital technology. Understanding water quality and turbidity, risk assessments, change detection, mapping subterranean water assets, assisting high-precision digital dam construction, and creating prescriptive modelling of scenarios are just a few examples of Geospatial applications for water management. Large-scale mission-mode projects in India utilizing Geospatial technologies for the water sector include the National Mission for Clean Ganga, the National Hydrology Project, the Jal Jeevan Mission, the National River Linking Project, and so on.

With increasing demand and limited availability of water resources, the use of Geospatial technologies is only becoming more and more important for ensuring sustainable water management in India. Nonetheless, there is still room to grow the application and scope of geospatial technologies. Building a long-term vision of the results of geospatial implementation is necessary for user departments to get the most out of the adoption of geospatial technology in diverse programs. This will guarantee long-term investments in infrastructure and human resources as well as improved program results.

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