Hydrogeologist, Sanjay Kumar Mishra: A Day in the GeoLife Series


Hydrogeologist, Sanjaya Kumar Mishra

NAME:  Sanjay Kumar Mishra


AREA OF EXPERTISE:  Work in structural geology in crystalline rocks, water exploration, groundwater estimation, water recharge structures, artificial recharge of groundwater, pumping tests of aquifers, geophysical and geological exploration of groundwater, water management

What’s your job like?

I work in the Rural Water Supply Department of the Government of Odisha, India and am assigned with the onerous task of finding the source of water for different piped water supply projects. Since the source forms the primary requisite for the successful completion of the project, my work often precedes the actual take-off of the project works. It involves the selection of sites for the construction of the intake wells if there exists any surface water source in the form of a river, stream or other sustainable static water bodies. In the absence of any such water source, then obviously I have to go for an underground water source and drilling sites are located. Reconnaissance surveys, aerial photographs, satellite imageries, and resistivity surveys are conducted for the exploration of groundwater. The real challenge is that the sources need to be identified near the habitations in the underdeveloped areas. Again, it has to cater to the demand of the population. Earlier the per capita norm of demand was 40 litres per capita per day (lpcd) which has now increased to 70 lpcd. At times, multiple sources are selected for the purpose. With the increase of population and concomitant rise in demand, or in the event of an existing source yielding less discharge of water, alternative sources are also located for the purpose to augment the project. Sometimes, the job is to be completed with short notice, especially during the searing summers when the demand vs. supply balance goes awry.

What’s a typical day like?

A typical field day starts early. The homework, in the form of collecting and assimilating all the available data of the project area is done earlier, so I head straight to the site. With the help of the groundwater prospects prepared by laying out the different layers of geology, geomorphology, and hydrogeology on the toposheets, I look for the most favourable sites and correlate them with the existing field data. Then, I go for the very low frequency (VLF) and resistivity surveys to find out the most suitable spot to drill if there are no surface water bodies available nearby. In the coastal tract of Orissa, the state I work in, saline water intrusion into the freshwater zones is a problem. In this alluvial deltaic region, the job of the hydrogeologist is more challenging as the freshwater zone within the sand layers has to be delineated. I do it after finishing the logging. If it’s a coastal region with the occurrence of saline water intrusion, then I do the logging and plot the data on graph sheets and recommend the well design for drilling depth, zones to be tapped through a strainer and saline sealing. My job also involves recommending the saline sealing that is to be put above the tapped zone of water.

I also conduct the pumping tests to find out the primary yield and aquifer parameters in some of the bores to test the sustainability of the source and selection of pumps.

What’s fun?

Selecting groundwater sources often involves using your common sense, and so I love to interact with local folks in order to gain insights into their thinking. That apart, I love to roam in the countrysides, which being in the underdeveloped places are often my projects area. It also gives me the footage for my stories and articles that I love writing in my spare time.

What’s challenging?

I work in an organisation that provides services to the people. So, when I am able to locate a good source using my scientific acumen in water scarcity areas, and people are actually benefited through it, the satisfaction I derive out of the effort is surely immense. That itself is the biggest challenge. Likewise, when the discharge of a particular source is not up to mark, the application of all the scientific knowledge notwithstanding, such is the vagaries of nature, that it becomes frustrating at times.

What’s your advice to students?

Enjoy the subject and strive to find the romance in field work. It makes you think where we are, if not why.

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