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This case study deals with the effective methods for store the rainfall /
runoff to increase the ground water level in Tamilnadu. The importance of
ground water is also explained in detailed manner in this study.

The source of ground water is always known as the rainfall
precipitation.Groundwater is an important and precious natural resource for
agricultural, domestic and industrial uses. The speedy and uncontrolled usage
of ground water has caused many problems. The intensive ground water
development has resulted in depletion in water levels, deterioration in water
quality and availability of this scarce resource. Proliferation in ground water
extraction resulted in increase in the stage of development in Tamil Nadu from
63% to 85% between 1992 and 2004 as per the ground water assessment
made by the Ground Water Wing of TNPWD. Similarly the nos. of over-
exploited and critical blocks has increased from 89 blocks to 175 blocks.
Groundwater quality in coastal area has also been affected due to excessive
groundwater development. Also over exploitation near the coast has led to sea
water intrusion. The development of groundwater resources in these areas
therefore need to be regulated and augmented through suitable measures to
provide sustainability. Rainfall being the main source of recharge to
groundwater, it is essential that substantial volumes of surplus monsoon run-off
that flows out into the sea has to be conserved and recharged to groundwater
The efficacy of the surface water bodies such as tanks, canals as a
means of natural recharge to groundwater has drastically reduced simply
because the water levels in those areas are too deep. Hence the need of the
hour is for Artificial Recharge systems that convey the fresh rainwater into
the aquifer. In other words, the basic purpose of artificial recharge of ground
water is to restore supplies from the aquifers depleted due to excessive ground
water development. The artificial recharge to ground water aims at
augmentation of ground water reservoir by modifying the natural movement of
surface water utilizing suitable civil construction techniques. The artificial
recharge techniques inter-relate and integrate the source water to ground water
In Tamilnadu, more than 80% of the annual rainfall occurs during the
monsoon periods only and also the intensity of monsoon rainfall is uneven and
erratic both in space and time, resulting drought conditions in some parts of
Tamil Nadu during non-monsoon periods. Thus, it is also essential to analyses
the occurrence of rainfall during various seasons for evolving a system to
manage the water resources effectively.
Tamil Nadu is an agrarian state spreading over an area of 130,300 and has been divided into 31 districts, which are further divided into 385
blocks. The State is characterized by diverse climatic, physiographic and hydro-
geologic conditions 73% of the geographical area is underlain by hard rock
formations and 27% occupy sedimentary formations.
The predominant source of water for the State is rainfall from both the
southwest and northeast monsoons. The average rainfall in the state in a water
year (June to May) is 961.8 mm. The utilizable surface water resources are
23,371 MCM (825 TMC). The annual replenish able ground water resource in
the state is 23,070 MCM (815 TMC). In Tamil Nadu 95% of the surface water
resources have been utilized and the only alternative is 'Ground Water'. The
Ground Water Development in the State has shown a phenomenal increase
from 7.9 lakhs wells to 20 lakhs wells between 1951 to 1990. This has further
increased to 37 lakhs during 2004. The increase in number of ground water
abstraction structures is due to implementation of technically viable schemes for
development of the resource backed by liberal funding from institutional finance
agencies, improvement in availability of electric power and diesel, good quality
seeds, fertilizers, Government subsidies etc.


While assessing groundwater potential block wise, the whole block is
classified as over-exploited, critical, semi-critical or safe, but there are some
pockets with in over-exploited and critical blocks where the groundwater
potential is more, or in some semi-critical or safe, there are places where the
development is more than estimated. To eliminate the above conditions, it is
necessary to take intensive survey for groundwater potential assessment on
Water Shed basis
Based on the stage of development, the blocks have been categorized in
terms of its exploitation for various uses in 385 blocks of the State. They are as
below: -
Over exploited 142 (>100%)
Critical 33 (>90% but < 100%)
Semi-critical 57 (>70% but <90%)
Safe 145 (<70%)
Saline blocks 8
Total 385 blocks.

Over-exploitation of ground water has resulted in declining ground water

levels, shortage in water supply increased pumping lifts and consequent
increase in power consumption.

The stage of ground water development of this magnitude viz. 85% with
such optimal planning has resulted in creating deleterious effects in terms of
ground water depletion and quality deterioration. The combination of these
challenges needs a suitable management approach. Augmentation of ground
water through Artificial Recharge is one such approach to overcome the
problems of ground water scarcity.


The objective of this Study is to discuss the methods by which the rainfall
/ run-off from the agricultural fields are to be stored to facilitate improvement in
Ground Water situation in the affected areas which in turn will improve the
overall irrigated agricultural productivity and help in improving the quality of
Ground Water especially in the fluoride affected areas.

Ground Water plays a vital role in food production, drinking water

supply, drought mitigation, economic development etc. besides
environment sustenance in the country. As per the latest Ground
Water Resource Assessment out of 385 Blocks in Tamil Nadu, 142
Blocks are over-exploited, 33 blocks are critical and 57 block are semi-
critical. Many areas of the State underlain by hard rock aquifers having
limited storage potentials are facing acute problems of over-
exploitation and depletion of Ground Water Resources. Beside the
problems of Ground Water depletion, the fluoride contamination of
Ground Water are prevalent in the State.

Artificial Recharge of Ground Water is one of the most efficient Ground

Water Management tools for controlling decline in Ground Water
levels, resource augmentation and increased sustainability of wells
besides mitigation of Ground Water quality problems.

Keeping in view the concerns regarding the problems of over-exploitation

of Ground Water Resources in the State as well as to ensure sustainable Water
Resource Management and assured irrigation facilities in the affected areas, a
scheme on Artificial Recharge to Ground Water through dug wells has been


The natural recharge of ground water is very slow and could not keep
pace with the excessive continued exploitation of ground water. This over-
exploitation of ground water resulted in declining ground water levels and
depleted the ground water resources in some of the areas. In order to augment
the natural supply of ground water, the artificial recharge of ground water is
essential. The rainfall occurrence is limited to a few days in a year. The natural
recharge to ground water reservoir in restricted to this period only. The artificial
recharge techniques aim at increasing the recharge period in the post monsoon
season and provide additional recharge. This results in providing sustainability
to ground water development during the lean season. Thus there is a need for
a systematic implementation of artificial projects for augmenting ground water
under various hydro-geological conditions.
In Tamil Nadu various departments like PWD, Agricultural Engg.Dept.
Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage Board, Rural Development, Metro
Water and Forest Department have been implementing different 'Artificial
Recharge Schemes' like Check Dams, Percolation Ponds, Recharge Shafts,
Tidal regulators, Recharge tube wells and rain water structures. These gives
great success in the ground water level and these success stories emphasize
the need for taking up the Artificial Recharge Schemes in a larger way so as to
augment the ground water through artificial recharge so as to prevent the semi-
critical areas numbering 57 blocks becoming critical blocks. Also the
implementation of Artificial Recharge Schemes will improve the ground water
potential which will enable the over-exploited and critical blocks to revert back
to semi-critical and safe blocks. Hence the Artificial Recharge schemes are to
be taken in a large scale wherever feasible for which a systematic approach
based on a Master Plan is the need of the hour.


The sub surface reservoirs are very attractive and technically feasible

alternatives for storing surplus monsoon run off. The sub surface storages have
advantages of being free from the adverse effects like inundation of large
surface area, loss of cultivable land, displacement of local population,
evaporation losses and sensitivity to earthquakes. No gigantic structures are
needed to store water. The structures required for recharging ground water
reservoirs are of small dimensions and cost effective such as check dams,
percolation tanks, surface spreading basins, pits, sub surface dykes etc.



The basic requirements for artificial recharge to ground water are: -

a) Availability of non-committed surplus run-off in space and time
b) Identification of suitable geological environment and sites for creating sub-
surface reservoir through cost effective artificial recharge techniques.
The source water availability, one of the prime requisites for ground water
recharge can be assessed by analyzing the monsoon rainfall pattern, its
frequency, number of rainy days maximum rainfall in a day and its variation in
space and time. The variations in rainfall pattern in space and time can be
considered for assessing the surplus surface water availability.
Detailed knowledge of geological and hydrological features of the area is
necessary for adequately selecting the site and the type of recharge structure.
The hydro-geological situation in each area needs to be appraised with a view
to assess the recharge capabilities of the underlying hydro-geological
formations. For assessing the requirement of water for sub-surface storage, the
entire thickness of the vadose zone up to 3 m below ground level is to be
considered as the upper 3 m of unsaturated zone may cause adverse
environmental impact viz., water logging, soil salinity etc.



The Artificial Recharge projects are site specific and the replication of the
techniques from areas are to be based on the local hydro-geological and
hydrological environments. The first step in planning the project is to demarcate
the area of recharge. The Artificial Recharge of Ground Water is normally taken
in areas
i) where the water levels are declining on regular basis
ii) where the substantial amount of aquifer has already been de-saturated
iii) Where availability of ground water is inadequate in lean months and
iv) Where salinity ingress is taking place. In Tamil Nadu, the potential
recharge areas have been identified from the zonation maps prepared
using Remote Sensing and GIS techniques by Institute of Remote
Sensing, Anna University in association with Department of Rural
Development, Government of Tamil Nadu and Tamil Nadu Water Supply
and Drainage Board.


The data on rainfall intensity, number of rainy days etc. help in deciding
the capacity and design of the artificial recharge structures.
The details like quantity of water available for artificial recharge as source water
for recharge have to be worked out by carrying out hydrological investigations in
that area viz., water shed/sub basin/basin.
The information on the infiltration capacity of the soil at a particular point
under given set of conditions is important while adopting water spreading
methods for artificial recharge. The infiltration capacity depends on soil type
moisture content, organic matter, vegetable cover season air entrapment,
formations of surface seals crusts etc.

The hydrogeology of an area is of prime importance in successful
implementation of any 'Artificial Recharge Scheme'. The data on sub-surface
hydro-geological units, their thickness and depth of occurrence are essential to
decide on the location and type of structures to be constructed in the field.

These techniques are highly suitable and effective means of determining
the characteristic formational features for suitable site selection for artificial
recharge structures. Also this technique is mostly adopted to assess the
unknown sub-surface hydro-geological conditions economically, adequately and

The quality of raw waters available for recharge should be free from
chemical and bacteriological effects. Also the water should be silt free.
The impact assessment studies carried out on the already constructed artificial
recharge structures reveal that percolation tanks, check dams, recharge shafts
are effective structures in hard rock areas whereas recharge trench and
recharge tube wells are effective in case of alluvial areas. In coastal areas tidal
regulators are effective in controlling seawater ingress. In case of urban areas
and hilly terrains with high rainfall rooftop rain water structures are effective.
These aspects are to be kept in mind while formulating the artificial recharge


The Artificial Recharge Techniques can be broadly categorized as follows:-


Different Artificial Recharge Structures are to be proposed to suit
different hydro-geological conditions as below:-

Check dams are constructed across small streams having gentle slope
and are feasible both in hard rock as well as alluvial formation. The site selected
for check dam should have sufficient thickness of permeable bed or weathered
formation to facilitate recharge of stored water within short span of time. The
water stored in these structures is mostly confined to stream course and the
height is normally around 2 meters.
These structures are artificially created surface water body submerging highly
permeable land areas so that the surface run-off is made to percolate and
recharge the ground water recharge. The percolation tanks should be located
on the downstream side of run-off zone with land slope between 3 to 5%.The
capacity of a percolation tank should be governed by the percolation capacity of
the strata in the tank rather than the yield of the catchment. These structures are
suitable for both in alluvial and hard rock areas. In the case of hard rock areas
submergence area should have high permeability with the degree and extent of
weathering of rocks should be uniform and not just localized. Percolation tanks
with wells and shafts can also be constructed in areas where shallow or
superficial formations are highly impermeable or clayey.

Percolation tanks are normally constructed on second order or third order

steams since the catchment so also the submergence area would be smaller.
Designed capacity should not normally be more than 50% of the total quantum
of rainfall in catchment. The benefited area should have sufficient number of
wells and cultivable land to develop the recharged water.
Recharge shaft is an artificial recharge structure which penetrates the overlying
impervious strata and provides effective access of surface water to recharge the
aquifer. These structures are ideally suited for areas with deep water levels.


The main purpose or sub surface dyke is to prevent the flow of ground
water out of the sub basin and to increase the storage within the aquifer. These
structures will ensure supply during the period of need. Sub surface dyke is the
barrier constructed across the river below the riverbed, which facilitates the
arrest of subsurface flow
Small village tanks can be modified for enhancing ground water recharge
after detailed studies.


In urban areas, the roof top rain water harvesting can be adopted for
recharge of ground water. This method of water harvesting requires connecting
the outlet pipes from roof top to divert the water to either existing wells/tube
wells/bore wells or specially constructed wells.
In rural areas, the rain water runoff can be channelized and recharged to
dug wells through a filter. The quality of source water including the silt content
should be such that the quality of ground water reservoir is not deteriorated. The
recharge water is guided through a pipe to the bottom of the well, below the
water level to avoid scouring of bottom and entrapment of air bubbles in the
1) The most favorable areas for artificial recharge structures are identified and
prioritized based on the Stage of Ground Water development of that area.
2) The numbers and suitable types of structures are proposed based on the
storage capacity and efficiency considering the storage space and available
source water for recharge.
3) The cost estimates of different types of artificial recharge structures were
worked out to arrive at the total cost.

Identification of feasible areas and types of structures to be provided:

In several areas of the state where rainfall is high, considerable variability
of rains in terms of their onset, distribution and amount over space and time
result in uncertainty about availability of water for rain fed crops. In hilly terrains,
steep slopes result in heavy run-off and low infiltration, resulting in shortage of
water during summer season. In all such areas, there is an urgent need to take
steps for augmentation of ground water resources through appropriate
techniques to provide assured supply of water for irrigation, industrial and
domestic needs.
The areas characterized both declining trend and depletion in depth to
water table are ideal sites for Artificial recharge to Ground Water.
The potential recharge areas and the type of recharge structures to be
provided are being identified with the help of zonation maps prepared using
Remote Sensing and GIS techniques by the Institute of Remote Sensing, Anna
University and funded by the Department of Rural Development and TWAD
Recharge structures:
Recharge structures proposed depending upon the topography, hydro-
geological conditions, check dams, percolation ponds will be appropriate for
recharging the aquifer. It has been considered that 70% of the available sub
storage would be recharged through percolation ponds and the remaining 30%
through check dams. In certain areas, for example, in Cuddalore district, the
terrain is not suitable for check dams and hence only percolation ponds are to
be adopted. In urban areas, roof top rainwater harvesting is to be adopted. Apart
from these sub-surface barriers, providing recharge shafts/pits, Farm ponds,
Recharge tanks, Desilting of Tanks etc. can also be adopted depending upon
the site conditions.


The implementation of Artificial Recharge schemes has to be carried out

in systematic and holistic manner as per the Master Plan by the respective
agencies like PWD, Agricultural Engineering Department, TWAD Board,
Chennai Metro Water Supply and Sewage Board and Forest Department in a
period of three years. As already indicated different departments have been
implementing the 'Artificial Recharge of Ground Water' schemes, to make the
schemes of this nature well planned on scientific basis and also to create data
base, it is desirable to notify the 'State Ground & Surface Water Resources Data
Centre (SG&SWRDC) WRO as a nodal department at the state level. The Nodal
Agency identified as the 'State Ground and Surface Water Resources Data
Centre, WRO has to monitor the implementation of all the recharge schemes.

The implementation of Artificial Recharge Schemes in a systematic and
scientific manner will enhance the ground water potential in the affected areas.
The problems like depletion in water levels and deterioration in water quality
caused due to over-exploitation will be tackled by augmentation of ground water
through Artificial Recharge. In our State, out of 385 blocks, 175 blocks are over-
exploited and critical where the stage of ground water development is more than
90%. The situation in these over-exploited and critical blocks constituting
45.45% will improve by the implementation of the proposed artificial recharge
schemes. The augmentation of the ground water through the Artificial Recharge
measures coupled with management and regulatory measures will improve the
ground water scenario in the State and these affected blocks may revert back to
semi-critical and safe blocks respectively. Apart from this, immediate steps are
required to be taken to prevent the semi-critical blocks numbering 57 blocks
(14.80%) from becoming critical and over-exploited blocks. In Tamil Nadu,
various departments like PWD, Agricultural Engineering, TWAD Board,
Panchayats were implementing artificial recharge schemes. Forest department
is implementing similar schemes in the Reserved Forests. The sectoral
allocation of water to various uses will be supplemented and go a long way in
tackling the problems of over-exploitation of ground water in the State.

After analyzed the rainfall / runoff position in different areas at different
monsoons of the Tamilnadu, the appropriate method of Artificial Recharge
Techniques is selected to increase the ground water level.

1) State ground and surface water resources data centre,
government of Tamil Nadu
2) Study of trend of rainfall over Tamil Nadu by p. Indira & s.
Stephen Rajkumar Inbanathan