News Feature | November 20, 2013

India Tackles Water Scarcity With Aerial Tech

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Battling water scarcity, India is looking at the problem from a new angle: above. 

The federal Ministry of Water Resources has launched a project to map aquifers using aerial technology for the first time in India, according to the Economic Times. "This pilot project is part of a mega one — the National Project on Aquifer Management — to map aquifers all over India and will cover 21 million square kilometers," the report said

"In order to assess ground water, we need a three-dimensional geometry of aquifers so that we know how much to extract. Eventually, the community and state governments will manage these," an unnamed ministry official said in the report. 

India is using a Danish technology called Skytem and a low-flying chopper. The chopper flies around 3,500 km and go "slowly, at a speed of 60 to 80 km per hour so that the frame doesn't swing too much," said Shakeel Ahmed, chief scientist at the National Geophysical Research Institute, in the report. 

Electromagnetic currents are sent through a fiber-optic loop to the ground "and the magnetic field thus generated is measured. This allows us to see the distribution of water—how much there is and at what depth," Ahmed explained. 

Water scarcity is a current and rising issue in India, according to the non-profit Water Project. 

"India's water crisis is often attributed to lack of government planning, increased corporate privatization, industrial and human waste and government corruption," the report said. "In addition, water scarcity in India is expected to worsen as the overall population is expected to increase to 1.6 billion by year 2050."

Water scarcity is expected to becoming an increasingly high-profile political conflict in India, the report said.

Other nations face similar troubles. Scarcity is among the top three water challenges in the U.S., Water Online previously reported. Mapping aquifers is an approach to water scarcity used in the U.S., as well. 

For instance, in Nebraska, one district hired a firm to map aquifers using a "low-flying helicopter [which] will follow a grid pattern at 50 mph," according to the Journal Star

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