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Global water challenges River Basin Management Opportunities and Risks

Global water challenges River Basin Management Opportunities and Risks



Global Water Challenges: River Basin Management Opportunities and Risks ...

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



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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 Global water challenges River Basin Management Opportunities and Risks Presentation Transcript

  • River Basin Management Opportunities and Risks Don Blackmore | 3 May 2013 Global Water Challenges
  • The reform agenda Policy | Institutional | Instruments | Tools
  • Evolution of Water Management in Australia Pioneering and Discovery Phase 1880 – 1920 Delivery Phase 1920 – 1985 Management Phase 1985- Present
  • Dams - How Many? 40,000 over 15m since 1950 • One every 2 days
  • Trans-boundry Rivers Currently 261 • Covering: 145 nations 45.3% land surface of earth 80% available freshwater
  • Water Treaties 3600 Water related treaties since AD 805 6 minor water related skirmishes 1 major conflict One new country
  • Murray-Darling Indus Ganges Mekong Nile Euphrates The clash of PERCEPTION vs FACT The Basins – Murray-Darling / Africa & Asia
  • Driving Philosophy: You can’t manage what you can’t measure and describe The Murray-Darling Basin Must move from perceptions to fact “Sufficient certainty” enables the hard questions and tradeoffs to be tackled
  • Ganges River Basin
  • The River – South Asia Monsoons A highly variable hydrology Difficult to manage Prone to drought and flood
  • Ganges Water Balance 0 100 200 300 400 500 600 Baseline High Dev. Annual volume (km3) Total flow Active storage Consumptive use Groundwater
  • Fact The next 20+ major dams will have little impact on mainstream Ganges floods Major hydro electric benefits exist Surface irrigation is of low value Conjunctive water use—huge opportunity—can be delivered now, a.k.a. the Ganges water machine Global Circulation Models have not agreed on the outcome of climate change Perception Major dams will deliver multiple benefits, including the control of Ganges floods More surface water for irrigation is good Climate change will have a catastrophic impact Ganges
  • The Mekong
  • Areas affected by salinity intrusion Baseline results
  • Mekong Water Balance 0 100 200 300 400 500 Baseline High Dev. Annual volume (km3) Total flow Active storage Consumptive use
  • Fact China dams deliver a much needed increase in low flow and mitigate salinity intrusion in the delta. They also provide scope increase irrigation diversion with little impact on fisheries There is significant scope in energy and irrigation development provided they meet international standards Perception Hydro electric dams in China will have a negative effect on lower riparians There is little space for development without significant environmental tradeoffs Mekong
  • The Australian Story
  • 1. Diminishing water security Climate change and drought Urban population growth 2. Over-allocation of resources Rapid and poorly managed expansion of irrigation (1960s-1980s) Uncontrolled groundwater use Drier climate since 1950s 3. Environmental degradation Salinity Toxic algal blooms Decline in native fish, birds and floodplain vegetation Australia’s top 3 water issues
  • The reform agenda Policy | Institutional | Instruments | Tools
  • The Murray-Darling Basin 70% of Australia’s irrigated agriculture However... Serious over-allocation of water between 1960s-1980s 10500 The Cap 0 8000 16000 24000 32000 '20s '50s '80s (GL) QLD VIC NSW MDBC TOTAL
  • Elements of the reform agenda
  • National water policy reform (1994-2004) 1994 COAG water reforms Institutional reform (rural and urban) Property rights and water markets/trading Environmental flow provisions Groundwater management Water included in National Competition Policy 2004 National Water Initiative Review and update of 1994 reforms New powers and role for Commonwealth (Federal) Government New Commonwealth Water Act (2007) Water for the Future fund ($12.9 billion) Murray-Darling Basin Plan
  • Trading volumes
  • Managing through drought: Alloc vs trade
  • Water productivity improvements in China Cities now take almost all the water…. but agricultural output relatively steady
  • Irrigation benchmarking
  • 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
  • The Murray-Darling Basin Plan (2010-11) Defines ‘Sustainable Diversion Limits’ For 20 River Valleys in MDB (in different States) Covers surface- and ground-waters Will consider climate change risks Protect environmental ‘assets’ Floodplain forests and wetlands Environmental flows Water quality and salinity Political and social implications State ‘Water Sharing Plans’ must be accredited Social impacts must be considered Based on ‘best-available’ science (evidence-based policy)
  • Building the new integrated modelling system for Australia
  • CLIMATE LAND USE ECOLOGICAL ASSETS DAMS & WEIRS IRRIGATION CITIES IMS Integrated modelling system (IMS) for rural and urban water management
  • Murray-Darling Indus Ganges Mekong Nile Euphrates The clash of PERCEPTION vs FACT The Basins – Murray-Darling / Africa & Asia
  • Credit: NASA/Trent Schindler and Matt Rodell Punjab is a Global Hotspot in GW over- exploitation