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Groundwater - The hidden treasure beneath our feet

Giulio Di Anastasio speaks to the team about the importance of groundwater conservation and the dangers of its over extraction. 

Giulio Di Anastasio is a trained geologist and seasoned Geo-archaeologist who, after extensive experience across Europe and Asia, has been devoting his expertise to the Auroville Water Group. Here, he is playing a critical role in developing an integrated water management plan for the city.

Auroville – Puducherry – Kaliveli bioregion Map

He recently engaged the Yuvabe youth in a captivating talk about the water situation of Auroville and the bioregion, helping us understand the relationship between natural topographies, groundwater and the built environment. 

The implications of our actions on Auroville's water systems and the wider bio-regional realities were a focal point of our discussion. Giulio introduced us to the existing water management strategies and the issues plaguing Auroville and the broader region.

Central to these problems is the alarming scarcity of groundwater due to over extraction of water from the aquifers and inadequate replenishment and recharging initiatives.

Diversifying our water sources through innovative strategies such as wastewater reuse and rainwater harvesting, would be a step in ceasing depleting groundwater reserves.

Understanding the unique topography of Auroville and its surrounding regions is critical, Giulio explained.

By identifying areas with the capacity to hold groundwater, we can better strategize its conservation.

Geological Map of Auroville Region. A-B: cross section line

Soil compaction in San Joaquin valley due to groundwater extraction

One critical aspect he highlighted was the correlation between decreasing groundwater levels and soil compaction. Such compaction, he explained, can lead to structural sinking, an issue of great concern for the stability of our built environment. This adds another layer of urgency to the issue of ground water conservation. One really powerful example of this is the San Joaquin Valley, where the land subsidence is recorded at nine meters till now! 

Giulio also drew our attention to another risk: the salinization of groundwater, an inevitable consequence of over-extraction, which will contaminate our supply of potable freshwater. 

Community project: Children enjoying a swim in the restored Villupuram channel. | Photo Credit: KUMAR SS/The Hindu

Speaking highly of the wisdom embedded in traditional Tamil culture, which advocates the creation of natural water reservoirs through the planting of palm trees around catchment areas and construction of bunds and trenches, Giulio emphasised on the importance of drawing inspiration from the past to tackle our contemporary challenges.

Graph showing water level and weekly rainfall from 2018 to 2021 at Cuddalore,Manaveli,Kadaperikuppam,Ottai and Vanur.

Giulio showed us multiple graphs illustrating old rainfall patterns and demonstrated how we could home our skills in pattern recognition and use it to understand and potentially predict future hydro-logical patterns. 

During the talk, we also learnt how some Aurovilians have been collecting data on rainfall for years. This data helps Giulio’s team see clearly the increase in the rainfall variability in the last two years, with rainfall becoming less frequent but very high in intensity. This is a stark proof of climate change affecting local weather patterns. The infrequent but heavy rainfall is not useful for groundwater replenishment as the force of the water causes more harm than good. 

Our key takeaways:

  • Giulio’s dynamic interaction left an indelible impression on our team, reminding us of our deep reliance on Earth's most precious resource - water. 

  • It reminded us of how close the possibility of losing fresh, clean ground water is and how every effort towards water conservation counts. 

  • The experience kindled a renewed fascination with water, inspiring some people in the team to start sketching out ideas around other ways of water collection and conservation! It seems the first drops of change have already started to fall!

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