London: India`s thirst for groundwater is threatening a major water crisis, and adding to global sea level rise, says a report.
Virendra Tiwari, from the National Geophysical Research Institute in Hyderabad, says that satellite measurements have shown that northern India is sucking some 54 trillion litres of water out of the ground every year.
He and his colleagues used gravity data from the GRACE satellite to monitor the loss of continental mass around the world since 2002.
In their study report, the researchers highlight the fact that regions where water is being removed from the ground have less mass, and, therefore, exert a smaller gravitational pull on the satellite.
As regards their observations, Tiwari`s team revealed that groundwater under northern India and its surroundings was being extracted exceptionally fast.
The researchers` calculations suggest that an average of 54 cubic kilometres, enough to fill more than 21 million Olympic swimming pools, was lost every year between 2002 and 2008.
According to them, boreholes in the region show the water table is dropping by around 10 centimetres a year, reports New Scientist magazine.
John Wahr, of the University of Colorado at Boulder, considers agriculture to be the prime culprit.
The researchers reckon that severe water shortages may hit the 600 million people living in the region in the next few years, if the trend is not reversed soon.
The team also note in their report that the "lost" water does not just disappear: most of it runs into the oceans.
They believe that it might be pushing up global sea levels by as much as 0.16 millimetres each year, which is 5 percent of total sea level rise.
A research article on the findings has been published in Geophysical Research Letters.