Hydro-geological assessment and socioeconomic implications of depleting water resources in Nainital Lake

This projected was sanctioned on 16th August, 2019 by the National Water Mission which is being implemented by Center for Ecological Development and Research (CEDAR), in collaboration with Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Roorkee and Forest Research institute (FRI), Dehradun. The project will be helpful in rejuvenation and restoration of lake as well as study the impact of climate change on Nainital Lake.

This project aim to analyze water supply scenario for Nainital in the State of Uttrakhand. The study will examine the drivers for the altered regimes of water supply in the lake town Nainital and the mechanisms to deal with it. It will also examine the possibility of using the ‘carrying capacity’ of the towns to set the limits for growth. The focus is human-coupled ecosystems in the Himalayas; Nainital is situated in the mid altitudinal zone and has a population below 50,000 individuals with high tourist influx. The town is dependent on a lake where it is necessary to understand present trends of water demand and supply, and the issues related to the sustainability of the critical water zones.

The main objectives of the study are listed below:

  • Hydro-geological/dynamic assessment of Nainital Lake w.r.t Water balance, trophic state, isotopic analysis in conjunction with water balance.
  • To develop a hydro-dynamic model for the lake system.
  • To explore the nature of dependence of local communities on hydrological flows and other ecosystem services.
  • To develop a deeper understanding of critical water zones and help identify areas critical to water recharge.
  • Mapping of critical water zones.
  • Water Vulnerability assessment of different wards in Nainital.
  • To develop citizen science initiatives through schools, colleges and citizen groups and catalyze such groups to influence good water policy.
  • To coordinate between schools, colleges, research institutions, citizen groups, and the district administration and policy–makers, in order to help develop effective networks around water supply and policy.
  • Influence Policy at Local, State and National level.



Activities Undertaken for the project

  1. Partner Consultation, Team Finalization, Reconnaissance visit, and Site Survey for identification of catchment areas and selection of place for instrumentation.
  2. Inception meetings for discussion on methodology and tools with the advisory committee.
  3. Field Survey, Collection of secondary data, GIS-based data collection, and Map-making.
  4. District Magistrate’s permission for installation of instruments for primary data collection.
  5. Data collection from the Irrigation Department, Disaster Management Authority, Jal Sansthan, Tourism department, and Lake Development Authority of Nainital city.
  6. Questionnaire development for eight identified stakeholders for vulnerability assessment, pilot testing of the questionnaire.

Major Findings of the Project

            For Hydrogeological Assessment

  • The drains flowing into the lake are maintained by the Irrigation Department. Permission for drain instrumentation to measure inflows has to be taken from the department itself.
  • Daily Rainfall data and Lake level data is collected by the department. At certain instances, snow level is also recorded. Data can be shared by the department.
  • The outflow from the lake through the 5 sluice gates was initially being controlled by the Public Works Department till 2017. The charge was handed over to Irrigation department from 2018. Hence, currently the outflow from the lake is being regulated by the department.
  • The idea of screens on either side of the lake showcasing the daily water quality parameters as suggested by the report given by AHEC and NIH is not appropriate according to the engineers as it will cause a ruckus among local population who do not understand the effect of seasonal variation and storm runoff effects on lake water quality.
  • A local project staff should be present for the maintenance of the equipment has been suggested, given the highly variable climatic conditions of the region.

                 For Vulnerability Assessment

  • Methodology design, test tools were identified for the assessment. The FRI team with CEDAR has developed eight questionnaires for identified entities.

Ongoing Activities under the Project

  1. Instrument procurement work is under process. The order for instruments placed for a multi- probe for water quality parameters and water level and temperature sensors are in progress according to the institute's procurement policies.
  2. CEDAR is doing paper writing and result analysis of Water Vulnerability assessment of different wards in Nainital city.
  3. Development of citizen science initiatives through schools, colleges and citizen groups and catalyze such groups to influence good water policy.
  4. Mapping of critical water zones.
  5. Knowledge products in the form of blogs, articles, video documentaries, poster will be made by collating the data from first and second cycle and will be disseminated among the groups of citizens.
  6. Spring discharge measurement activity to be conducted by CEDAR and IIT, Roorkee together.
  7. Monthly Water quality profiling will be undertaken to assess the vertical profiles of temperature, dissolved oxygen (DO), conductivity and total dissolved solids (TDS) of the Nainital Lake.