Economic development and population growth in Peninsular India have resulted in rapid changes to land-use, land-management and water demand which together are seriously impacting and degrading water resources. Urbanization, deforestation, agricultural intensification, shifts between irrigated agriculture and rain-fed crops, increased groundwater use, and the proliferation of small-scale surface water storage interventions, such as farm-level bunds (usually to conserve soil moisture in fields) and check-dams (to replenish local aquifers) all have contributed to significant changes in the hydrological functioning of catchments. The impact of such changes and interventions on local hydrological processes, such as streamflow, groundwater recharge and evapotranspiration, are poorly constrained, and our understanding of how these diverse local changes cumulatively impact water availability at the broader basin-scale is very limited.
Focusing on the highly contentious inter-state Cauvery River basin (with an area of c.80,000 km2, the Cauvery is one of India’s largest river basins) our study addresses the key scientific challenge of representing the many local, small-scale interventions in Peninsular India at larger scales.
Using observations from established experimental catchments in both rural and urban settings, the project will first explore how changes in land-use, land-cover, irrigation practices and small-scale water management interventions locally affect hydrological processes. In tandem, the project will develop novel upscaling methods to represent the improved process-understanding in models at the larger sub-basin (Kabini, ~10,000 km2) and basin (Cauvery) scales. In so doing, the project will demonstrate the capability to generically represent the cumulative impact of abundant small-scale changes in basin-wide integrated water resources management models. The impact of local-scale interventions will further be modelled alongside projections of population growth, climate- and land-use-change and water demand to assess future impacts on water security across the basin. Key stakeholders are involved throughout the different stages of the project to ensure that project outputs reflect their interests and concerns and provide useful input to their decision making.
The project will be delivered by a team comprising hydrologists, hydrogeologists and water resources management experts from world-leading scientific institutions in both the UK and India through 5 complementary work packages (WPs), each having their own set of objectives, tasks and deliverables. WP1 - Project Management and Implementation; WP2 - Rural Catchment Hydrological Processes; WP3 - Urban Catchment Processes; WP4 - Upscaling to River Basin; and WP5 - Sustainable Water Management and Policy.
The project will build on primary work in existing instrumented catchments (Berambadi, Aralumallige, Nelamangala and Jakkur)
This project is funded under a joint NERK-MOES collaboration under the Indo-UK Newton Bhabha fund. Funding to Indian partners comes from the Ministry of Earth Sciences.