Upscaling Catchment Processes for Sustainable Water Management in Peninsular India

Lead Research Organisation: NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
Department Name: Water Resources (Wallingford)

Abstract

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. Focussing 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 we will then 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.

Planned Impact

Our research tackles one of the most pressing natural resource issues in Peninsular India: how rapid economic development and population growth impacts water security through widespread changes in land-use, water management and water demand. Currently our understanding of the impact of such changes on hydrological processes is limited despite water degradation and depletion being a major issue in many Peninsular India. The Cauvery River Basin form the focus of our research. Shared between the states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, the river has long presented water management challenges at the local, regional and basin scale. Urbanization, deforestation, agricultural intensification and shift from rain fed crops to irrigated agriculture are all major influences in different parts of the Cauvery basin and small scale interventions such as the construction of farm-level bunds to conserve soil moisture continue to proliferate. Our research will take a multi-scale approach to understand the impact of anthropogenic changes in the hydrological system of Peninsular India.
The project will develop novel methods for upscaling the improved process understanding from rural and urban experimental catchments and will demonstrate the capability to assess the cumulative impact of abundant small scale changes across larger basins. Integrated process understanding will inform modelling from the field to basin scale to quantify interactions between different anthropogenic catchment modifications and their integrated impact on surface and groundwater resources at the basin scale.
There are a number of beneficiaries of the research:
Local water users. The field scale research of the impact of small scale interventions on the local hydrological conditions is of direct benefit to the farmers and communities using water and managing land. By building on ATREE's existing Water Literacy campaign we will ensure that the new knowledge and understanding is quickly and appropriately communicated. Within the urban environment of Bangalore we have support from both the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board and a local NGOs involved in water rejuvenation within the city. Both will directly benefit from the research by being given a better understanding of the feedbacks between groundwater, surface water and the built environment and forecasts of future trends.
Basin Authorities. A major outcome from this research is to upscale the key small scale processes to inform how the hydrological system functions at a basin scale. The beneficiaries from this research include the State Authorities such as the Cauvery River Authority and Karnatak Government's Watershed Development Department, both of which have offered support to our project.
National Institutes. At a national scale, a major impact from the project will be improved hydrological modelling frameworks for large-scale Indian catchments. Our project's whole systems approach will deliver methods which allow the representation of cumulative local scale interventions within larger catchment models. As such, the project outputs will be particularly useful to the Central Groundwater Board and the National Water Development Agency, both of whom have expressed their willingness to participate in the project.
Academic Community. The research will benefit researchers in hydrology, environmental modelling and the growing community investigating linkages between society and the water-food-energy nexus. It will provide an impetus and mechanism for increased India-UK academic collaboration, and benefit both communities through increased exchange. The research team has a strong international academic track record and are involved in academic and professional networks which will increase uptake of within the broader academic community, such as UNESCO supported networks GRAPHIC, G-WADI, HELP and the scientific communities of IAHS and IAH.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The UPSCAPE project set out to better understand the availability of water in the Cauvery Basin for the benefit of the people living in the basin. The aim of the research was to learn more about the factors that influence the supply and demand of water across the region, today, and in the future. There's long been an appreciation that water availability isn't determined by single factors such as climate, land use, population; instead, it's the combined effects that give a truer perspective. The project's key finding were that:

• Rural interventions, whilst altering hydrological behaviour locally, have limited effect on flows of the main Cauvery River at its outlet;
• Leakage from public water supply (PWS) and sewerage networks is the largest source of groundwater recharge in urban centres, cf. contribution from urban tanks
• GCM-based projections indicate that annual total water availability is likely to increase but with greater within-year variability, with increased flows in wet-season but reduced dry-season flows;
• Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSP) scenarios indicate future "sustainable" behaviours (SSP1) could help mitigate problems of water stress in the basin, whereas less sustainable (SSP3) would exacerbate these.
Exploitation Route The result from the combined endeavours of the UPSCAPE team is a deeper understanding of the individual factors that influence water availability. More importantly, the groundbreaking tools developed allow the scientific community to create new scenarios based on sound, empirical evidence. The desire of everyone involved in the project is to see the research used by the water management community to help shape future sustainable water strategies; strategies that we hope will see the daily challenges faced by the people of the Cauvery dramatically improved.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Energy,Environment

URL https://www.newton-bhabha-swr.org/upscape
 
Description The scientific evidence and research models generated by the UPSCAPE project have expanded our understanding of how water is distributed across the Cauvery Basin. The project has united different scientific specialisms which has given a more rounded perspective on the nature of the challenges faced. The collaborative approach has brought together experienced stakeholders and PhD students, who have gained practical and highly valued exposure to science in action. The result from the combined endeavours of the UPSCAPE team is a deeper understanding of the individual factors that influence water availability. More importantly, the groundbreaking tools developed allow the scientific community to create new scenarios based on sound, empirical evidence. The desire of everyone involved in the project is to see the research used by the water management community to help shape future sustainable water strategies; strategies that we hope will see the daily challenges faced by the people of the Cauvery dramatically improved.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Environment
Impact Types Cultural,Policy & public services

 
Description CEH and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore sign a memorandum of understanding 
Organisation Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore
Country India 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The two organisations will identify opportunities for development of collaborative research, exchange of research scientists, and joint staff and studentships.
Collaborator Contribution The two organisations will identify opportunities for development of collaborative research, exchange of research scientists, and joint staff and studentships.
Impact An initial project is for CEH scientists to work with an IISc team to monitor soil moisture at the IISc catchment near Mysore. CEH will supply a state-of-the-art Cosmic Ray Soil Moisture Measuring Device, COSMOS and train IISc, staff and students on its use.
Start Year 2014
 
Description UPSCAPE Upscaling Catchment Processes for Sustainable Water Management in Peninsular India: a project to be delivered by a consortium of UK and Indian scientists that comprises individuals and organisations having well-established tack records of working in Peninsular India. Our team includes experts from NERC's Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH), the Indian Institute of Science Bangalore (IISc), British Geological Survey (BGS), Ashoka Trust for Energy and the Environment (ATREE), the Univer 
Organisation Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore
Country India 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution CEH co-leads with IISc this Newton-Bhabha fund project , which is jointly funded by NERC (UK) & MoES (India)
Collaborator Contribution See above entry
Impact None yet: project just started
Start Year 2016
 
Description 'SUNRISE' flood and drought workshops in China and India 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Sustainable Use of Natural Resources to Improve Human Health and Support Economic Development.
SUNRISE flood and drought workshops where held in China and India.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.ceh.ac.uk/sunrise
 
Description Keynote presentation at Roorkee Water Conclave, 27 February 2020 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Keynote talk to an audience of c.400 attending the Roorkee Water Conclave (to celebrate the 150-year anniversary of IIT-Roorkee). The talk described 25 years' collaboration between UKCEH & IIT-Roorkee (including activities funded by DFID,NC-ODA (SUNRISE), Newton-Bhabha (UPSCAPE), and GCRF) and considered prospects for future collaboration.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.iitr.ac.in/rwc2020/
 
Description Presentation at Large Rivers Conference, New Delhi, 19-21 April 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation of the aims, objectives and progress of UPSCAPE
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Stakeholder engagement workshop & meeting in Tamil Nadu (Trichy and Chennai) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Stakeholder consultation workshop and meeting with groups having interest in the management of water in Tamil Nadu
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description SusHi-Wat meeting, Cambridge, UK, 3/10/17 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Presentation at meeting of one of the two other SWR projects, Sushi-Wat.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description UPSCAPE Stakeholder Consultation Workshop: Bangalore, 23 October 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Stakeholder consultation workshop to present findings of UPSCAPE to an audience of c.30 practitioners, policy makers and academics from Karnataka, convened at IISc-Bangalore. The meeting discussed the policy implications of the findings and considered different management options to improve future water availability/security.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description UPSCAPE Stakeholder Consultation Workshop: Chennai, 25 October 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Stakeholder consultation workshop to present findings of UPSCAPE to an audience of c.40 practitioners, policy makers and academics from Tamil-Nadu, convened at IIT-Madras, Chennai. The meeting discussed the policy implications of the findings and considered different management options to improve future water availability/security.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description UPSCAPE finding at SWR End-of-Programme Special Session, at the WaterFuture Conference, Bangalore, 25 September 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Approaching the end of the three-year Sustaining Water Resources programme, a Special Session was organised as a side-event at the WaterFuture Conference - Towards a Sustainable Water Future - in Bangalore on 25 September 2019. The SWR end-of-programme event gave opportunity to project the programme's scientific findings and to explore their policy implications with as wide an audience as possible at a single event. UPSCAPE's findings were presented by Dr Gwyn Rees; several posters were also presented of different aspects of the project. Several UPSCAPE participants further took advantage of the Conference's many technical sessions to present specific outcomes and achievements of their research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019