Better service delivery through a National Water Resources Framework
Inaugurating the events, CEEW’s Chairperson and former Union Minister, Mr Suresh Prabhu said, ‘The management of India’s water resources must respond to growing demand falling short of available and planned increases in supply as well as pressures from different uses and users, including the environment. These pressures have to be addressed in a fair, equitable and holistic way.’ Mr Prabhu continued, ‘This is why India needs to develop a national water resources framework to integrate different water uses (across sectors), introduce basin-wide management, institutional reforms to increase service delivery and demand efficiency, broaden the skill-base of water resource managers, and increase resources for measurement of water delivery and use.’
CEEW published a National Water Resources Framework Study on the request of the Planning Commission for the preparation of the 12th Five Year Plan. The 584-page report covers the full range of water-related issues: effective participatory management of medium and large scale irrigation; sustainable management of groundwater resources; reform and capacity building of irrigation departments; role of water regulators; water utility management; promoting conservation in industry; and legal and institutional reforms. It offers detailed diagnosis of the problems, analysis of reform initiatives underway, and proposes reforms that would be applicable for the 12th Plan period and beyond.
Institutional reforms for agricultural water use efficiency (WUE)
At a session on agricultural water use efficiency, Dr Arunabha Ghosh (CEEW’s CEO, who also led the NWRFS team) argued that so far much emphasis had been on building new irrigation systems while not paying attention to maintenance, timely water delivery, and farmers’ involvement in water management. In 20 out of 28 states, created irrigation infrastructure exceeds the potentially remaining area that can be developed; and states like
Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have in fact exceeded their ultimate irrigation potential area. Pressure on ground water sources is also increasing: Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan are already consuming more ground water than was available annually and several other states were approaching the limits. ‘If little additional irrigation potential remains, the emphasis must then shift to demand-side management, greater efficiency, better maintenance, and giving farmers more control and resources for managing on-farm irrigation infrastructure,’ said Dr Ghosh.
CEEW’s latest study on institutional reforms for water use efficiency in agriculture, released at the India Water Week, shows that despite numerous competing definitions, three core elements are essential to measure WUE: water availability, water use, and institutions and capacities. Drawing on the experience of China, Mexico, Turkey and other countries, the study argues that to increase efficiency in water use in India, there has to be focus on greater local participation in irrigation management, capacity building for water management decisions, and better understanding of hydrologic principles. The study proposes three alternative institutional models, relevant for different agro-climatic and socio-economic conditions in India. These include joint management (with a defined role for independent contractors in training farmers and water user associations (WUAs); shared management, whereby WUAs have a role in managing distribution stations along with state agencies; and village-level management applicable for small-scale irrigation schemes where farmers actively participate in determining water supply, fee rates, fee collection mechanism, and manage the secondary and farm canal systems.
CEEW’s research shows that WUAs are effective when they are supported by adequate resources, skills and capacity development: strengthening Water and Land Management Institutes, establishing field training schools for water users, WUA support units at irrigation circle/divisional levels, etc.
Better monitoring and measurement of water resources
Water governance cannot improve unless the infrastructure for monitoring, measuring, analysing and sharing hydrological data is strengthened in India. For instance, the ratio of ground water observation stations to extraction wells is only 1:500. Or reservoir storage is monitored but actual water deliveries are not always measured, especially for minor irrigation.
CEEW hosted Dr Bill Young, head of Australia’s largest water research programme, who described how the Australian water information system has responded to data challenges in water governance. The importance of new technologies and automated weather stations, and data for natural disaster management were also noted.<br />