Spring Recharge

Natural springs form the most important source of water for communities in the Himalayas. Most water supply schemes that have been laid in the areas have their origins in a local spring. It has been found that most Himalayan villages in the state of Uttarakhand and particularly those in the Kumaun region are in the grip of a water crisis of significant proportions. The crisis is one of decreasing availability, deteriorating quality and poor governance, which is resulting in conflicts related to water availability. The scant details available on the water situation in the state reveal that drinking water scarcity has increased from approximately 19% of the villages in 81 to almost 80% of villages by 86. Nainital and Almora district are among the worst affected districts.

CHIRAG has been working on issues of water and sanitation for the past three decades. It began working on recharge and rejuvenation of Himalayan springs in a focused way adopting a springshed hydro-geological approach since 2008 to try and address the issue of reduced water availability and deterioration of water quality in the springs. It took technical support from ACWADAM Pune, for focus on geology and its different aspects to address the issue of water recharge in the springs. In the initial years CHIRAG invested a lot of time and effort in developing its own understanding of Himalayan geology and devising scientific techniques of recharging different types of springs. All the work is done through active participation of the village level institutions. Community members are provided trainings on the concept of geology, hydrogeology and water management. The springs, after the implementation of recharge activities are handed over to the community institutions which take care of its maintenance. The springs are monitored regularly for discharge and water quality.

CHIRAG has worked on spring recharge projects in partnership with various agencies like NABARD, Alstom Foundation, ARGHYAM, ATREE, IIT Roorkee, ACWADAM, Tata Trust, SWAJAL Project supported by World Bank and The Hans Foundation. So far, CHIRAG has treated and monitored 211 springs in 16 blocks spread over 8 districts of Kumaun and Garhwal regions of Uttarakhand. CHIRAG has been identified in the NITI Ayog working group report as a pioneer organization working in the Himalayas and appreciated for its efforts for advocacy to impact public policy for the years to come.

CHIRAG has taken steps towards understanding spring behavior in greater details. Two watersheds namely Ramgarh and Takula are instrumented in Nainital and Almora districts respectively. Ramgarh watershed was instrumented in the year 2015 with automated water level recorder and automated raingauges. The instrumentation was done on two springs and a stream at the mouth of the watershed. The springs chosen are of different typologies with differences in the characteristics of the recharge areas and are expected to provide a detailed understanding of the spring behavior with respect to time as well as with land use. Takula watershed similarly was instrumented with water level recorders on a spring and a stream at the mouth as well as automated raingauges at 2 sites in the watershed.

To constantly improve CHIRAG own skills and capabilities, it continued to collaborate with ACWADAM in providing scientific training to its staff and community resource persons. IT deepened its partnership with IIT Roorkee in improving its capacities in understanding of hydrology and data analysis. CHIRAG staff has also been training on hydrology at IIT Roorkee. CHIRAG collaboration with ATREE also deepened its scientific knowledge and scholars from ATREE help with data analysis. Fellow from SBI Youth for India brought in scientific rigor in work by training staff in scientific techniques of data capture and data analysis using latest software. Its hands on experience in implementing spring rejuvenating programmes and projects along with its collaboration with esteemed institutions have helped CHIRAG in improving its scientific understanding of geology and hydrology of the Himalayan spring system and have led to a better and more effective implementation.