Global water challenges River Basin Management Opportunities and Risks


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Global Water Challenges: River Basin Management Opportunities and Risks

A presentation by Don Blackmore
(The presentation has been modified from the original version to remove any copyrighted material)

Water Land and Ecosystems
High Level Dialogue New Delhi
3 May 2013

Published in: Technology
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  • This work was carried out by AditiMukerji the 2012 Norman Borlaug award winnerWe found that, after showing high growth in the mid 1980s and early 1990s, West Bengal’s agricultural economy had slowed down with an adverse impact on farmers’ incomes and livelihoods. In recent years, it has barely registered 1% annual growth. The groundwater economy contracted too. For example, according to the Minor Irrigation Census, the number of groundwater wells declined by over 100,000 from 2001 to 2007 – entirely unprecedented in India. This is a paradox given that the same minor irrigation census shows that in 80% of the villages, groundwater is available within less than 10 metres and that groundwater levels recover sufficiently after the monsoon season due to high rainfall (1,500-3,000 mm per year) and the alluvial nature of the aquifer [underground layer of water-bearing rock]. Yet, farmers found it difficult to pump water from aquifers for their crops. Why was this so?We discovered that the reason was that farmers were facing high energy costs for pumping groundwater because of their dependence on diesel pumps and the fact that diesel prices have been increasing quite rapidly since the early 2000s. In West Bengal, only 17% of all pumps are electrified, compared to a national average of over 60%. The electrification of pumps would have been an easy solution, especially since West Bengal has been an electricity surplus state for a long time now. However, we found that farmers faced two difficulties in connecting their pumps to the electricity grid. First was the Groundwater Act of 2005 which required all farmers to procure a permit from the groundwater authority before they could apply for a connection. This process of getting a permit was fraught with red tape and corruption and often led to harassment of farmers by unscrupulous officials. And then, even if a farmer managed to get a permit from the groundwater authorities he then had to pay the full capital cost of electrification of tube wells which was often much beyond the capacity of small and marginal farmers owning less than half a hectare of land.We presented our research findings to DrMihir Shah, Member of the Indian Planning Commission, and with his help we took our results and recommendations to the top bureaucrats in Bengal. We suggested removing the permits system in all places where the groundwater situation is safe. We also suggested rationalising the capital costs of initial electrification. In addition, we suggested that funds from the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) should be used in a targeted manner for the excavation of ponds in districts with alluvial aquifers. The government accepted most of these suggestions. On 9th November, 2011, via an administrative order, the Secretary of Water Resources changed the law whereby farmers residing in safe areas and wanting to install pumps with less than 5 Horse Power would no longer require a permit from the groundwater department. Similarly, the West Bengal State Electricity Board has also come out with a circular saying that farmers will have to pay a one-time fixed cost for electrification and this cost will be around Rs. 10,000 or so. They will, of course, then continue to pay a metered tariff.  Here, let me emphasise that West Bengal has one of the best agricultural electricity governance regimes in India. Unlike other states where farmers get free and unmetered electricity, in Bengal, electric pumps are metered and farmers pay quite high electricity tariffs for pumping groundwater. This gives them an incentive to make efficient use of groundwater and electricity.With both these policy changes in place, it is expected that farmers will have easier access to groundwater, will be able to intensify their cropping systems, earn more and emerge out of poverty. Together these have the potential to drastically change the nature of agriculture in West Bengal and usher in a second Green Revolution. The state has 7 million land holdings, of which 5.6 million are less than one hectare in size and belong to small and marginal farmers. Thus the possible implications for agricultural output and poverty reduction of these two policy changes are huge. I also think that these policies are replicable in many parts of the eastern Indian states of Bihar and Assam with similar hydro-geological conditions. By providing timely, adequate and reliable irrigation, groundwater helps in reducing poverty.
  • Global water challenges River Basin Management Opportunities and Risks

    1. 1. River Basin ManagementOpportunities and RisksDon Blackmore | 3 May 2013Global Water Challenges
    2. 2. The reform agendaPolicy | Institutional | Instruments | Tools
    4. 4. Evolution of Water Management inAustraliaPioneering and Discovery Phase1880 – 1920Delivery Phase 1920 – 1985Management Phase 1985- Present
    5. 5. Dams - How Many?40,000 over 15m since 1950• One every 2 days
    6. 6. Trans-boundry RiversCurrently 261• Covering: 145 nations45.3% land surface of earth80% available freshwater
    7. 7. Water Treaties3600 Water related treaties since AD 8056 minor water related skirmishes1 major conflictOne new country
    8. 8. Murray-DarlingIndusGangesMekongNileEuphratesThe clash ofPERCEPTION vs FACTThe Basins – Murray-Darling / Africa & Asia
    9. 9. Driving Philosophy:You can’t manage what youcan’t measure and describeThe Murray-Darling BasinMust move fromperceptions to fact“Sufficient certainty”enables the hard questionsand tradeoffs to be tackled
    10. 10. Ganges River Basin
    11. 11. The River – South Asia MonsoonsA highly variable hydrologyDifficult to manageProne to drought and flood
    12. 12. Ganges Water Balance0100200300400500600Baseline High Dev.Annualvolume(km3)Total flowActive storageConsumptive useGroundwater
    13. 13. FactThe next 20+ major dams will have little impact onmainstream Ganges floodsMajor hydro electric benefits existSurface irrigation is of low valueConjunctive water use—huge opportunity—can bedelivered now, a.k.a. the Ganges water machineGlobal Circulation Models have not agreed on theoutcome of climate changePerceptionMajor dams will deliver multiple benefits, includingthe control of Ganges floodsMore surface water for irrigation is goodClimate change will have a catastrophic impactGanges
    14. 14. The Mekong
    15. 15. Areas affected by salinity intrusionBaseline results
    16. 16. Mekong Water Balance0100200300400500Baseline High Dev.Annualvolume(km3)Total flowActive storageConsumptive use
    17. 17. FactChina dams deliver a much needed increase in low flowand mitigate salinity intrusion in the delta. They alsoprovide scope increase irrigation diversion with littleimpact on fisheriesThere is significant scope in energy and irrigationdevelopment provided they meet international standardsPerceptionHydro electric dams in China will have a negative effecton lower ripariansThere is little space for development without significantenvironmental tradeoffsMekong
    18. 18. The Australian Story
    19. 19. 1. Diminishing water securityClimate change and droughtUrban population growth2. Over-allocation of resourcesRapid and poorly managed expansion of irrigation(1960s-1980s)Uncontrolled groundwater useDrier climate since 1950s3. Environmental degradationSalinityToxic algal bloomsDecline in native fish, birds and floodplain vegetationAustralia’s top 3 water issues
    20. 20. The reform agendaPolicy | Institutional | Instruments | Tools
    21. 21. The Murray-Darling Basin70% of Australia’sirrigated agricultureHowever...Serious over-allocationof water between1960s-1980s10500 The Cap0800016000240003200020s50s80s(GL)QLD VIC NSWMDBC TOTAL
    22. 22. Elements of the reform agenda
    23. 23. National water policy reform (1994-2004)1994 COAG water reformsInstitutional reform (rural and urban)Property rights and water markets/tradingEnvironmental flow provisionsGroundwater managementWater included in National Competition Policy2004 National Water InitiativeReview and update of 1994 reformsNew powers and role for Commonwealth (Federal)GovernmentNew Commonwealth Water Act (2007)Water for the Future fund ($12.9 billion)Murray-Darling Basin Plan
    24. 24. Trading volumes
    25. 25. Managing through drought: Alloc vs trade
    26. 26. Water productivity improvements in ChinaCities now take almost all the water…. but agricultural outputrelatively steady
    27. 27. Irrigation benchmarking
    28. 28. India is taking up the challenge“Resilience of ecosystems to become a central plank of policy”“20% increase in water use efficiency of irrigation”“National Aquifer Management Programme”“ cut energy losses and stabilise groundwater”“convert watershed management programme into a productivity enhancing instrument”“management of liquid and solid waste promoted together with recycling and reuse”“Indian cities and industries have to reinvent their water trajectory”“paradigm shift in flood management away from building more embankments”State Water Regulatory Authorities – “autonomy and accountability”Model Bill for Protection, Conservation, Management and Regulation of Groundwater
    29. 29. The Murray-Darling Basin Plan (2010-11)Defines ‘Sustainable Diversion Limits’For 20 River Valleys in MDB (in different States)Covers surface- and ground-watersWill consider climate change risksProtect environmental ‘assets’Floodplain forests and wetlandsEnvironmental flowsWater quality and salinityPolitical and social implicationsState ‘Water Sharing Plans’ must be accreditedSocial impacts must be consideredBased on ‘best-available’ science(evidence-based policy)
    30. 30. Building the newintegrated modelling systemfor Australia
    31. 31. CLIMATELAND USEECOLOGICALASSETSDAMS &WEIRSIRRIGATION CITIESIMSIntegrated modelling system (IMS)for rural and urban water management
    32. 32. Murray-DarlingIndusGangesMekongNileEuphratesThe clash ofPERCEPTION vs FACTThe Basins – Murray-Darling / Africa & Asia
    33. 33. Credit: NASA/Trent Schindler andMatt RodellPunjab is a GlobalHotspot in GW over-exploitation