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India is the largest user of groundwater globally, extracting more than the United States and China put together.

Today, groundwater is the only source of water for most of India's people, providing the bulk of water for farming and domestic use.

While groundwater spurred the Green Revolution that made India a food-secure nation, the widespread extraction of this precious resource has led to its alarming decline. With climate change making rainfall patterns increasingly unpredictable, groundwater will assume even more importance. Already, almost two-thirds - 63 percent - of India's districts are threatened by falling groundwater levels.

In many cases, this water is becoming contaminated. Worryingly, poverty rates are 9-10 percent higher in districts where groundwater tables have fallen below 8 meters, leaving small farmers particularly vulnerable.

If current trends persist, at least 25 percent of India's agriculture will be at risk. In 2019, the India launched its landmark groundwater program, the Atal Bhujal Yojna, to arrest this precipitous decline.

A version of this article appears in the print on May 26, 2022, of The Himalayan Times