Background on groundwater monitoring in Nepal

Nepal's Terai has an estimated 8,800 MCM of groundwater reserves, based on assessments carried out in the 1970s and 1980s, and abstraction of groundwater from these aquifers has steadily increased with irrigation being the main water user. Electrification, promotion of solar pumps, increasing private investments in diesel pump irrigation and growing industrial water use are progressively increasing the demand for groundwater in Nepal's Terai and localized reports of groundwater depletion have started to surface. Monitoring the water levels of the Terai's aquifers is thus critical to ensure that groundwater development does not deplete the resource beyond sustainable limits. While the responsibilities of groundwater management are currently spread across different governmental bodies, the GWRDB retains a mandate for groundwater monitoring activities that are to be implemented through its branch offices.

Specifically, Nepal's GWRDB has the following main objectives:

  1. Identification of groundwater potential area in the Terai (shallow and deep aquifer) through geophysical survey and investigation tubewells.
  2. Exploitation of shallow and deep aquifer in the Terai for irrigation and drinking purpose.
  3. Develop technical manpower related to groundwater field.
  4. Regular monitoring of existing investigation tubewells for water level fluctuation, groundwater reserves and water quality.
  5. Study and investigation of mountain and Karst aquifer.
  6. Groundwater Resources Development Board (GWRDB), located at Babarmahal, Kathmandu is responsible to carry out above mentioned activities through its 8 branch offices.

Groundwater Field Offices are located at Biratnagar, Lahan, Mahottari, Birganj, Butwal, Dang, Nepalganj and Dhangadhi. As of now, each of the branch offices employs one data collector per overseen district who measures the groundwater level of ca. 20 wells per district on a monthly basis. These measurements have traditionally been recorded with pen and paper and transcribed into an excel worksheet that is stored with the GWRDB.

The manual procedure has three major shortcomings:

  1. The process introduces a time lag for data availability and potential errors in transcribing the data.
  2. The data is not easily accessible to a wider audience of interested users, limiting the use of these data for research and development planning.
  3. The data is not easily visualizes for mapping of groundwater levels in space and time and for processing into information for different use cases.

Objective of this Dashboard

The goal of this dashboard activity is to provide an open data system for groundwater data in Banke district with the aim to develop a system that can be scaled to other districts of Nepal. The sub-objectives include:

  1. Develop one-stop-shop for accessing actionable information on groundwater stakeholders and planners
  2. Incrementatlly expand the dashboard to different use cases through a strong science-policy interface
  3. Collate and provide various data and reports on groundwater in Nepal to help make the unvisible visible

Dashboard development and data collection

The dashboard is being developed on a continuous basis. This first version is aimed to provide rapid support and real-time visualization for the ongoing data collection efforts. In the background we are constantly developing the feature set of the dashboard based on experience and user feedback. We therefore kindly invite anybody to share feedback, request additional features, or contribute their data or web development skills.
The monitoring wells wer selected in 1980s and 1990s as part of UNDP and USAID funded groundwater development and sustainability programs including large hydrogeologic studies. The reports of these studies are available with GWRDB.
For data collection, we replaced the manual data entry with Open Data Kit (ODK) supported data entry on a tablet or phone. After measuring the water level, the data collector immediately enters the data in a survey form on his tablet which is directly send to the cloud, processed, and visualized. Data collection takes place on a monthly basis.
Different digital methods were also tested and evalauted and the report will be published on this website shortly.

Historical dataset

These data have been manually collected and curated since the year 2000. However, some years and data points are missing and typos have not been fixed yet. You can click both on the wells in the map or on the graph in the bottom to select and de-select wells of interest. Below the graphs you can select the year of interest.

Download monitoring data

We provide easy options to download the collected data. The dataset includes all the variables that are submitted to the server including location, well number, name of data collector, date, measurement details and the final groundwater level for the ODK based data, and groundwater level for the offline loggers. Please note that this dataset has not been screened for errors so use with caution.

Geographical setting and hydro-geological Characteristics

Nepal's Terai belongs to the Northernmost section of the Indo-Gangetic Plains that stretch from the foothills of the Himalayas to the Ganges Rivers in the South at around 100 masl. The aquifers thus belong to the Indo-Gangetic Basin alluvial aquifer. General characteristics of the aquifers can, for example, be found in Bonsor et al. (2017). A typical cross section of the Terai aquifer looks like the following (with yellow being coarser sand layers of good aquifer material, Bonsor et al. 2017):

Aquifer type

Nepal's Terai aquifers are comprised of alluvial and poorly sorted aquifer material. Several layers of aquifer material are intersected by several layers semi-confining clay layers. Water levels for aquifers range from 0 to 10 mbgl with an average of 4.5 mbgl. The following map has been produced by the GWRDB based on the water level measurements of the GWRDB/UNDP tubewells of 1993: