Sustaining Himalyan Water Resources in a Changing Climate (SusHi-Wat)

Lead Research Organisation: NERC British Antarctic Survey
Department Name: Science Programmes


In this project, we propose to investigate how water is stored in, and moves through, a Himalayan river system (the inter-linked Beas and Sutjej catchments) in northern India at daily to decadal timescales and to use the resulting insights to develop and test a robust model of the whole system that can be used to inform current and future decision making to support the sustainable development and management of the region's water resources. Building on the success of the MICCI project (within the Changing Water Cycle - South Asia programme) in the region, the project will address user requirements centred on understanding and managing the effects of climatological and hydrological variability and socio-economic development on delivery of critical ecosystems services, notably the irrigation water supply-hydropower generation-flood risk management nexus.
A combination of state-of-the-art modelling, field studies, satellite-based remote sensing and observation will be developed to improve the process-based understanding of Himalayan water resources availability and quality, considering meteorology, surface-water, groundwater, seasonal snow, permanent snow/ice, soil and vegetation. These stores and flows will be considered within a 'whole-system' framework that explicitly recognises their inter-dependencies and interactions.
The improved understanding will be used to set-up, calibrate and validate a robust system model of the river basins using the widely used Water Evaluation And Planning (WEAP) software system. This model will integrate both 'natural' catchment processes and human modifications of the river basin system into account. These latter include irrigation, hydropower generation, and inter-basin water transfers. The whole system model will be used to understand how the impact of climate change, land-use change and population growth will affect water resources (including flood risk management), water demand (irrigation and public water demand) and inter-sectoral competition for water supply (for water transfers, irrigation and hydropower) through their interactions with the hydrological cycle. The results will be used to inform decision-making and support the sustainable development of India's water resources and hence long-term socio-economic growth
The project will involve collaboration between internationally-leading scientists at 4 Indian institutions (IIT-Roorkee; NIT- Hamirpur, National Institute of Hydrology-Roorkee and the Indian Institute of Science- Bangalore), 2 UK Universities (Heriot-Watt University and Cranfield University) and one UK research institute (British Antarctic Survey). It will build on an existing and thriving collaboration between many of the UK and Indian partners. We will work with key regional and national stakeholders in India (farmers, agricultural advisers, river basin management board and the national farmers association) to ensure the relevance and impact of the research.

Planned Impact

In this project, our research will inform the understanding and management of the effects of climatological and hydrological variability and socio-economic development on delivery of critical ecosystems services, notably the irrigation water supply-hydropower generation-flood risk management nexus, in the Indian Himalayan region. It will build on the success and pre-existing stakeholder links of the MICCI project (within the Changing Water Cycle - South Asia programme) in the region. This will ensure that our activities complement and contribute to the overarching Impact and Knowledge Exchange plan of the 'Sustaining Water Resources for Food, Energy & Ecosystem Services in India' programme.
At the strategic level, a wide range of Indian organisations at State to National level with responsibility for policy and practice in relation to water and natural resources, rural development and food security will benefit. These include the National and State Ministries of Agriculture, Rural Development, Earth Sciences, Environment and Forest and the Bkahra-Beas Management Board (who operate and regulate the supply of water and power from the Pong and Bhakra reservoirs).
Important beneficiaries regarding the improvement in consumptive use of water are small scale, rural Indian farmers who depend on rainfed and irrigated agriculture for their livelihoods, for whom the research will contribute towards improved practices of sustainable irrigation management production that are more resilient to future environmental change. We have pre-existing stakeholder relationships from MICCI with the State Agricultural Extension Services and the All India Farmers Association.
Users involved in research to improve our understanding of how climate change interacts with the global to regional water cycle, and the consequent impacts affecting humankind and ecosystems will also benefit from the research outcomes. These include researchers on water resource modelling, rural development, aquatic ecology, surface water quality etc.
A number of activities are scheduled to achieve these impacts, including:
(1) Network development- participating research institutions in India will profit from enhanced technical capacities through close working relations with their UK counterparts while the UK researchers benefit through new knowledge gained from interactions with their Indian counterparts;
(2) Stakeholder engagement through creation of a multi-stakeholder platform that will link the research team and key end users in India and act as a focal point for a range of outreach and networking activities;
(3) Workshops- we will carry out 2 workshops with farmer organizations, central and state government irrigation agencies and agricultural extension advisers at the start and end of the project. These will provide valuable opportunities for two-way learning, allowing improved understanding of climate change impact and the need to improve irrigation practices and to ensure that the research produces contextually-relevant results to maximise impact;
(4)Site visits- We propose a 3 day UK study visit for representatives of the extension services in the State Department of Agriculture in our 4 states and research collaborators, featuring a workshop and site visits to commercial irrigated agriculture facilities mainly in Eastern England. The workshop will be designed and led by RTCS Ltd;
(5)Publications in peer-reviewed journals and presentation at learned conferences; and
(6) Website- dedicated websites will be developed on the UK and Indian institutional websites on which scientific and summary outputs from the project will be mounted.


10 25 50
Description Dynamically downscaling reanalysis data using a regional atmospheric model is an excellent way to provide forcing for hydrological models, and the results are superior to other gridded datasets based on either reanalysis, in-situ observations, or remote observations.
Exploitation Route The methodology could be applied to other Himalayan regions.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Energy,Environment

Description Information exchange with the Bea Bharka Management Board (BBMB) in India, including advice on how climate change will affect future water resources.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Impact Types Policy & public services

Description Submitted a report for IUKWC
Geographic Reach Asia 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
Description International Development Innovation and Impact Award
Amount £21,000 (GBP)
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2017 
End 01/2020
Description NC-ODA
Amount £1,100,000 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/R000107/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2018 
End 03/2020
Title Regional atmospheric model 
Description A regional atmospheric model of the Bea-Satluj region of the Indian Himalayas. The model was run for the last few decades, and the resulting precipitation and temperature fields were compared against available observations and also bias corrected. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Output from this model will be used to drive hydrological models. 
Description Divecha Centre for Climate Change 
Organisation Indian Institute of Science
Department Divecha Centre for Climate Change
PI Contribution Will use a regional atmospheric model to produce future regional climate projections of a region of the Indian Himalayas.
Collaborator Contribution Providing us with a modified glacier mask representative of the future, which we require in order to run future projections.
Impact DECC are a project partner on the BAS NC-ODA work, 'Water resources of the Upper Indus'.
Start Year 2016
Description IIT Roorkee 
Organisation Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee
Country India 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Engaged through SusHi-Wat
Collaborator Contribution Engaged through SusHi-Wat
Impact Number of meetings held in both UK and India
Start Year 2016
Description National Institute of Hydrology 
Organisation National Institute of Hydrology, Roorkee
Country India 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We have downscaled coarse-resolution reanalysis data over the Beas - Satluj basin using a numerical weather model. This model will be used to produce future projections for this region, which will be used to understand changes in hyrology/water resources.
Collaborator Contribution They have provided in-situ data for model validation.
Impact As a result of this collaboration, NIH agreed to be a project partner on the NC-ODA work at BAS, 'Water resources of the Upper Indus'.
Start Year 2016
Description Co-wrote report 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact M. Widmann, R. Blake, K.P. Sooraj, A. Orr, J. Sanjay, A. Karumuri, A. K Mitra, E. N. Rajagopal, A .F. Van Loon, D. M. Hannah, N. Barrand, R. Singh, V. Mishra, F. Sugden, and D. S. Arya. 'Current Opportunities and Challenges in Developing Hydro-Climatic Services in the Himalayas: Report of India-UK Water Centre Pump Priming Project 2017', Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Wallingford and Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, 2018.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018