Expert Column | VOL. 9, ISSUE 56, September-October 2009 |

Ladakh: Water Scenario

Chairman of Central Ground Water Board (CGWB), Ministry of Water Resources, Dr B M Jha is entrusted to provide scientific inputs for management, exploration, assessment, and regulation of groundwater resources of the country.

What has been the water table scenario in the district of Ladakh?

Groundwater level in the region of Ladakh varies widely due to a large variation in topography. The depth of the water level is shallow in valley fill areas and deeper in the hilly areas of Ladakh.
The depth of the water level ranges from 1.3 at Zorawar Fort to 43.36 meter below ground level (m bgl) at ITBP II site. The scope of groundwater development is limited to favourable areas along the valleys and plains only. Springs are the main sources of water supply. The analysis of spring data reveals that yield from these springs ranges from 1.5 (e.g. Yulkum) to 290 litres per second (lps) (e.g. Boudang). These springs are normally used for domestic purposes, but also serve as a source of irrigation. Springs mark the prominent seepage/contact zone (valley fill deposits with the older formations and weak zones, such as fractures, faults and thrust zones) of the area that receives recharge from glaciers located at higher altitudes. Hot water springs have also been identified in the areas located near Panamic and Changlum along thrust zones.

 

Is the district of Ladakh facing increased water shortage in the recent years – can tourism be a cause?

There is no water shortage as such due to the presence of perennial rivers and other water sources in Ladakh. The water available in perennial nala/rivers are mainly snow fed and its melting is directly related to discharge in nala/rivers in this area. The discharge varies from winter to summer.

However, Ladakh has hostile climatic conditions, rugged terrain coupled with unfavourable geological setting – that can, in instances, affect proper management of water supply in the region. Tourist influx is mainly during summer months and during this period the water sources have maximum discharge or flow due to thawing of snow, glacial melt etc. Serious efforts are being made by public health engineering and local bodies to sort out such hiccups in some pockets.

What management issues do you think can solve the problem?

CGWB is promoting water harvesting including roof top rainwater harvesting in hilly areas affected by water scarcity. Such practices can be adopted in the region of Ladakh, at few select locations. Further, snow water harvesting is also one of the management options for increasing water availability and at places can help recharge of ground water. This may thus increase the availability of water throughout the year.

Under the groundwater exploration programme of CGWB, 27 wells have been constructed in Ladakh since 1973, concentrated mainly in the Leh district.  Drilling depth of exploratory wells ranges from 10 to 86 m bgl,  The discharge in these wells  ranges from 197 to more than 2000 litres per minute. These wells may be suitably located in such areas to augment the water supply.

 

Does the creation of artificial glacier help solve the problem?

The concept of artificial glacier and its utility in managing the water supply requirement needs to be established. However, snow harvesting at places may be useful.

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