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Preserving Groundwater

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Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia which is inhabited by more than 28 million populations has been struck by flooding since the last few days.   Instead of talking about flooding, I am going to talk about groundwater in this essay. I am writing this essay just for sharing my idea and knowledge. Hopefully it would be worthwhile for people out there… 🙂

Based on some studies and reports, groundwater quantity and quality in several cities in Indonesia such as Jakarta, Semarang and Surabaya is rapidly degrading due to overexploitation, sea water intrusion, and poor environmental sanitation. The degradation of groundwater quality not only increases health risks but also damages the environment. Groundwater is one of the most important natural resources, as a source of water supply in Indonesia, therefore it should be preserved and conserved to sustain the livelihoods. Groundwater usually has high quality for drinking water and domestic water supply compared to surface water. In Jakarta and other cities in Indonesia, the quality of surface water such as rivers and ponds has been deteriorated, hence groundwater is still being an important water source not only for domestic use but also for industries.

According to UNESCO (2004), groundwater is a component of total water resources and water balance, and is one of the main components of the environment. Groundwater is interrelated with other components of the environment. Changes in atmospheric precipitation cause changes in the groundwater regime, resources, and quality. And vice versa, changes in groundwater cause changes in the environment. Uncontrolled groundwater exploitation can result in a decrease of surface water discharge, land subsidence, seawater intrusion, and vegetation oppression due to groundwater withdrawal. In addition, human activities such as urban development and intensive agricultural practices can result in significant changes in groundwater condition such as depletion and pollution. Furthermore, poor environmental sanitation leads to groundwater pollution as well. Nowadays, groundwater pollution is a serious danger that limits its practical use for domestic use and drinking water supply, not only in Jakarta but also in other cities in Indonesia such as Tangerang, Surabaya, and Semarang.

Groundwater is a part of the hydrological cycle. The water in groundwater aquifers comes from rainwater infiltrated and percolated into the soil. Furthermore, some amount of river run-off is formed by groundwater. However, according to Global Water Partnership (2006), there is a fact that groundwater is often managed separately from surface water although it is part of the hydrological cycle. There is also evidence that groundwater is managed separately from urban wastewater though it represents a potential pollution threat to groundwater, and from land management though groundwater aquifers are threatened by pollution from urbanization, industrial development, agricultural practices, and mining enterprises. Actually, there is an unbreakable link among groundwater, surface water, urban wastewater, and land management. Therefore, this interconnection should be considered when solving problems of groundwater.

Improving the condition of deteriorated groundwater sources could be costly and time-consuming, but we should attempt to improve the groundwater condition because groundwater is source of life. There are some ways could be done to preserve our groundwater resources. Firstly, let’s save our groundwater, starting from our house. For example, do not use excessive amount of groundwater drawn from the well to wash car or motorcycle, or for gardening. We can use treated greywater for gardening instead of water from the well.  Secondly, we should infiltrate rainwater as much as possible into the soil by constructing infiltration well, infiltration trench, or bio-pore holes in desired area. Infiltrating rainwater into the soil not only recharges groundwater aquifers to increase the quantity of groundwater, but also reduces potential flood risk. In high density area, bio-pore hole is applicable, because it does not require large area to construct it. Infiltration well and infiltration trench might be more applicable for public building such as schools, government offices, mosques, and others. Thirdly, the limits of admissible groundwater withdrawal should be determined by government regulation or law. In the author opinion, there has been no fixed regulation regarding the limits of groundwater withdrawal in Indonesia and groundwater management. Although there might be some regulation regarding groundwater management, but it has not been widely informed to the whole community. Over-exploitation of groundwater by industries and high buildings owners in Indonesia is uncontrolled, and there must be a regulation and action to control it. The government regulation could be used as a tool for raising the awareness about groundwater preservation and conservation, hence there will be no hazardous activities anymore regarding groundwater management, such as dewatering activities in building construction.

Fourthly, rainwater harvesting should be promoted widely because rainwater is a potential water source in Indonesia. Rainwater harvesting can decrease groundwater consumption as well as flood risk. Though rainwater might not have similar quality compared to groundwater, but rainwater is potential water source in Indonesia, and could be harvested for water supply. Rainwater also has better quality compared to river water. Small scale rainwater harvesting using, for example, rooftop rainwater collection constructed in public facilities such as schools, mosques, and government building would be useful for water supply, at least to supply water demand in these facilities. Even for industries, rainwater is potential water source. Fifthly, improving environmental sanitation and implementing safe agricultural practices could be done to reduce groundwater pollution. It could be implemented by constructing appropriate domestic, industry or mining wastewater treatment. In addition, educating the citizens by conducting hygiene promotion can also support the improvement of environmental sanitation. Agricultural practices which have less potential risk to groundwater pollution should be promoted widely, for example by practicing organic agriculture.  Sixthly, there must be fair law enforcement to support the agenda of groundwater preservation and conservation. There will be no success program without fair law enforcement. In addition, stakeholder involvement is also important to succeed the program of groundwater resources preservation.

Lastly, let’s preserve our groundwater resources so that our next generation still can get benefits from such source of life.



Author: P.S.Pudyastuti

I am an academic staff at Civil Engineering Department, Faculty of Engineering, Universitas Muhammadiyah Surakarta - Indonesia. I got my Bachelor Degree (ST) from Gadjah Mada University, Indonesia, and Master Degree (M.Sc) from Loughborough University, England. I am married and have got 3 children.

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