The depletion of groundwater resources threatens food and water security in India. However, the relative influence of groundwater pumping and climate variability on groundwater availability and storage remains unclear. Here we show from analyses of satellite and local well data spanning the past decade that long-term changes in monsoon precipitation are driving groundwater storage variability in most parts of India either directly by changing recharge or indirectly by changing abstraction. We find that groundwater storage has declined in northern India at the rate of 2 cm yr−1 and increased by 1 to 2 cm yr−1 in southern India between 2002 and 2013. We find that a large fraction of the total variability in groundwater storage in north-central and southern India can be explained by changes in precipitation. Groundwater storage variability in northwestern India can be explained predominantly by variability in abstraction for irrigation, which is in turn influenced by changes in precipitation. Declining precipitation in northern India is linked to Indian Ocean warming, suggesting a previously unrecognized teleconnection between ocean temperatures and groundwater storage.
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The authors acknowledge funding from the ITRA-Water project. Data availability from the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB), Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), and India Meteorological Department (IMD) is greatly appreciated.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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Asoka, A., Gleeson, T., Wada, Y. et al. Relative contribution of monsoon precipitation and pumping to changes in groundwater storage in India. Nature Geosci 10, 109–117 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo2869
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