Social Dimension of Water Resource Management in Sri Lanka – Part 4

by Delgollage Senevirathne, Assistant General Manager (Sociologist) at the National Water Supply & Drainage Board (NWSDB), Sri Lanka.

(6) Awareness of aquifer as a finite resource

Groundwater comes from two main sources. When it rains water seeps down through the soil until it reaches an aquifer. These aquifers may also be in contact with rivers and streams allowing these surface waters to ‘drain’ into the aquifer. In some places these aquifers can also supply water to rivers and streams.   Groundwater is a finite resource and must be replenished or else it will eventually be depleted.

An aquifer is a body of water-saturated sediment or rock in which water can move readily. Water in the ground travels slowly through pores or fractures depending on the type of sediment or rock material that the aquifer is made of.

There are 2 main types of aquifers, unconfined and confined. An unconfined aquifer is exposed to the surface of the land. A confined aquifer, is an aquifer that has a confining layer that separates it from the land surface.

Because groundwater is a finite resource, it is essential to protect groundwater resources against over-exploitation and damage to hydrological systems resulting from human activities. Groundwater may respond very slowly to remediation efforts, particularly where aquifer recharge and flow rates are low.

If the water is extracted from an aquifer that will be a finite resource, there will be a gradual depletion of the resource thus will lead to create dry wells or springs while the levels of water in the lakes or in the rivers will be lowered.

Before groundwater resources can be managed in an effective and sustainable way, resource managers need to make an inventory of the resources and their environmental role, and to establish how accessible they are. It is not enough simply to know what groundwater resources are available. A policy for sustainable water management must define the measures to be taken over time to conserve and protect both the quantity and quality of groundwater resources.

Hence these aspects will have to be conveyed among the general public / uses of groundwater resource through awareness programmes.

(7) Awareness of social responsibility to attain sustainable water use

Sustainable water systems should provide adequate water quantity and appropriate water quality for a given need, without compromising the future ability to provide this capacity and quality. Water systems in the realm of sustainable development may not literally include the use of water, but include systems where the use of water has traditionally been required. Examples include water-less toilets and water-less car washes, whose use helps to alleviate water stress and secure a sustainable water supply.

Accessing the sustainability features in water supply, that is to say, the three-fold goals of economic feasibility, social responsibility and environmental integrity, is linked to the purpose of water use. Sometimes, these purposes compete when resources are limited; for example, water needed to meet the demands of an increasingly urban population and those needs of rural agriculture. Water is used (1) for drinking as a survival necessity, (2) in industrial operations (energy production, manufacturing of goods, etc.), (3) domestic applications (cooking, cleaning, bathing, sanitation), and (4) agriculture. Sustainable water supply is a component of integrated water resource management, the practice of bringing together multiple stakeholders with various viewpoints in order to determine how water should best be managed. In order to decide if a water system is sustainable, various economical, social and ecological considerations must be considered.

Social responsibility factors will apply to corporate sector and community approaches in water resources management. Each of the corporate sectors has a direct responsibility in contributions towards sustaining water use in the respective production processes through consideration of all user’s requirements in a river basin context. There has to be equity considerations that need to be followed to ensure sustainable use with emphasis on quality management. River basin plans for management of water resources through integrated approaches involving different user communities on different sectors viz. water supply vs. irrigation vs. hydro-power vs. aquaculture vs. recreation services etc. will have to be consulted and each sectoral user requirements or groups of users should be accommodated in deciding on the water allocation mechanisms.
NWSDB is an RWSN Member Organisation. To find out more visit the RWSN main website.

D.Senevirathne Assistant General Manager (Sociology)   Policy and Planning Division   National Water Supply and Drainage Board
Assistant General Manager (Sociology)
Policy and Planning Division
National Water Supply and Drainage Board

Author: RWSN Secretariat

RWSN is a global network of rural water supply professionals. Visit to find out more

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