Addressing Water Stress and Characterizing Groundwater Recharge in Sadhana Forest, India Through an Interdisciplinary Approach

More than 60% of India faces high to extremely high-water stress with surface water supplies being scarce and contaminated. This project focuses on Sadhana Forest India’s project in Tamil Nadu, employing an interdisciplinary approach to address water stress, and long-term improvement in groundwater quality and availability for the communities. A geophysical survey has been conducted to choose an optimal location for a new groundwater well succeeded by a follow up survey and borehole measurements, which will help constrain a hydrogeological model for the site. This will be used to install long-term monitoring stations with permanent sensors to assess water infiltration and recharge — as well as quality — and help better understand which water conservation practices are most suitable for recharge.

This project emphasizes education and community engagement by involving students to learn about recharge dynamics, performing geophysical surveys, and getting hands-on experience on water conservation structures’ construction. In addition, surveys on groundwater knowledge are performed in local communities and nearby villages to assess the stakeholder needs. A groundwater model will be developed to disseminate information and allow visualizations and interactions from the public. Success will be assessed based on improved freshwater access, water quality measurements, and providing open data from the monitoring network. The knowledge gained from this project will be applied to upcoming Sadhana Forests in North India by disseminating the outcome to the public and local scientific community, which will in turn promote sustainability and raise awareness about groundwater management and water conservation.

Testimonials from project team members and participants

It feels refreshing to use geophysics to address real-world challenges, especially in a place like Sadhana Forest; an inspiring coexistence of humans, animals and nature. What was key to the success until now is the teamwork and motivation of volunteers, students and senior staff alike. I’m looking forward to the next milestones and long-term sustainability of the outcomes. Thank you GWB for making this possible.

Alexis Shakas, Project Manager, ETH Zurich/ GWB India water project

“In reflecting on my experiences at Sadhana Forest and during field work, I am deeply inspired by the community’s commitment to environmental sustainability and resilience in Sadhana Forest. All the people there were very supportive. During the geophysical fieldwork, I ran into challenges and triumph alike, strengthening teamwork and problem-solving skills. The collaborative spirit among researchers and community members was truly remarkable. I also gained team-work experience. These experiences have left an indelible mark on my journey.

Ronak Dahiya, doctoral candidate for the project, CSIR-NGRI

“The geophysical field demonstration, jointly conducted by NGRI and ETH Zürich at Sadhana Forest, provided a valuable learning experience. Before the training, I only had theoretical knowledge about resistivity, SP, and GPR surveys. Through this program, I gained practical insights into conducting these surveys in the field, with the clear guidance and support of the survey instructors and Sadhana Forest team. I extend my sincere gratitude to the organizers of this field training for their dedication and hard work.

Joseph K Santy, MSc 2nd year Geophysics Pondicherry University