Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Environmental Sciences/Environmental, Earth & Ocean Sciences

First Advisor

Ellen M. Douglas

Second Advisor

Robyn Hannigan

Third Advisor

Crystal Schaaf


Punjab and Haryana lie in the semi-arid region of northwestern India and are characterized by a limited access to freshwater resources and an increasing dependence on groundwater resources to meet human demand, resulting in overexploitation. This study aimed to address three major questions: 1).Can recharge sources in Bathinda and Sirsa be characterized using stable isotopes? 2). Can rare earth elements (REEs) provide an insight into geochemical evolution of groundwater? 3).What is the current and future estimate of water resources in Punjab in light of increased human demand and climate change?

Stable isotopes of hydrogen and oxygen were used to characterize recharge sources of groundwater. Results identified precipitation, surface water and irrigation return flow as the primary sources of recharge to groundwater. Sustainability of recharge sources is highly dependent on the glacier-fed rivers from the Himalayas that are already experiencing impacts from climate change.

Trace element geochemistry of REEs, with identification of major water-rock interactions, was used for tracking groundwater geochemical evolution. Geochemistry of REEs revealed heterogeneous groundwater system with carbonate subsurface weathering reverse ion exchange and evaporation as major hydrological processes. Water-rock ratio of (0.5-0.7) suggested one-third to half of the groundwater already exploited in the region requiring a holistic decision making approach for water supply wells in the future.

A water balance approach was used to estimate impacts of current and potential climate change and human demand on the water resources of Punjab under two climate change scenarios. Results reveal a severely water deficit scenario with the present groundwater development (demand vs supply) reaching to around 140% and projected to reach over 200% in the future under both scenarios.

Results from the dissertation raise the important point that if irrigated culture is to survive as an economically viable and environmentally sustainable activity in the region, groundwater management activities have to be planned at the regional scale.


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