Water is the most vital component of the abiotic environment without which life cannot exist. Nearly three-fourths of the earth’s surface is covered with deep water (oceans and lakes). However, less than 2.5 percent of it is freshwater of which more than 69.5 percent is frozen in glaciers, polar ice caps, snow and permafrost, and more than 30 per cent constitutes the groundwater. Less than 0.3 percent of all freshwater on the earth (i.e., less than 0.0072 percent of the total water) that occurs in lakes (0.26 percent), rivers (0.006 percent) and wetlands ().03 percent) is utilisable by humans for their diverse needs. Yet a small fraction of total water circulates through the hydrological cycle operating between oceans, atmosphere and the earth’s surface. Water returning to the earth as precipitation either infiltrates into the ground, or is stored on the surface, or runs off on the surface.
The movement of water over land creates different kinds of water-dominated habitats which support a large proportion of the Earth’s biodiversity and provide a wide range of ecosystem goods and services. These are recognised as rivers, lakes and wetlands, besides the subterranean groundwater habitats. These inland water ecosystems lying above the mean sea level are the focus of this domain.
Rivers are naturally flowing water (lotic) systems whereas Lakes are bodies of relatively still (standing or lentic) waters localized in a basin that is surrounded by land. Wetlands are areas of land which are either permanently or seasonally water-saturated or submerged under shallow water.
This page is being developed as an inventory of all water bodies in India (and neighbouring coutries). The inventory is planned to include all available information on all aspects of these water bodies and will gradually be transformed into a GIS-based Decision Support System for their management, conservation and restoration.
Individuals working with any water body anywhere in the Indian subcontinent are invited to contribute data, maps, figures, photographs and publications which will be placed on the web duly and fully credited to them.