groundwater
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Bad wells tend to get excluded from studies on groundwater levels, a problem that could skew results everywhere monitoring is used to decide government policies and spending.

Researchers at the University of Waterloo uncovered the problem while examining a discrepancy between and anecdotal evidence in southern India.

Reports on thousands of wells and taken between 1996 and 2016 suggested groundwater levels were rising, good news in an area where it is vitally important for agriculture.

At the same time, however, fieldworkers were hearing more stories from farmers about wells running dry, suggesting levels were actually declining.

Researchers solved the apparent paradox by first obtaining that backed up the anecdotal evidence. It showed, for example, that more farmers were digging expensive deep wells in the hard-rock aquifer.

“If indeed groundwater levels are going up, why would farmers choose to pay more and dig deeper wells?” asked Nandita Basu, a civil and environmental engineering professor. “It didn’t make sense.”

Researchers then examined the well data and found that those with missing water level data were often excluded from analysis because they were considered unreliable.

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