Judicious Use of water Resources

Compiled by Batta Nidhi*

 

Abstract

             Water resources of a country consist of both the surface water and the ground water resources. The per capita water availability of India is decreasing due to ever increasing population Agriculture utilizes nearly 70% and 80% of available water resources in India and Punjab respectively During the last few decades there has been a spectacular development in agriculture in India especially in Punjab due to Green Revolution, which enables Punjab to contribute largely in Nation’s food grain production. The state has developed its water resources by laying irrigation canals. The ground water resources are also being utilized indiscriminately. This causes water table decline in certain parts of Punjab and water table rise in other parts along with water pollution. The paper discusses the problems related to water use in Punjab. It describes the various techniques to use the water judiciously such as canal water management, on farm water management, conjunctive use of water, artificial recharge of ground water etc.

               

                  Of all the planet’s renewable resources water has a unique place.

   It is essential for sustaining all forms of life, food production, economic development and for general well being. Water resources consists of both surface water and ground water resources. The main source of all the water resources is the precipitation in the form of snow and rainfall. The surface water available in the form of canal water is tapped by constructing dam and reservoirs across the river at suitable locations. At some places surface water is also tapped by constructing small harvesting dams across the choes. The seepage from the surface canal network, deep percolation of rainwater, return flow from surface irrigation form the part of ground water resources. The surface and ground water resources of the country plays a major role in  agriculture, hydropower generation, livestock production, industrial activities, forestry, fisheries, navigation, recreational activities, etc. In India 70 %  of the water resources are used for agriculture  The table 1 shows the per capita per year availability and utilizable surface water in India. .The availability of water in India shows wide spatial and temporal variations. Hence the general situation of availability of per capita availability is much alarming. The map 1. shows the stage of ground water development in India. It is clear from the map that Punjab is one of the states where the ground water development is maximum.

Table 1. Per capita per year availability and utilizable surface water in 

              India ( in m3 )    

S. No.

Year

Population   ( in million )

Per capita surface water availability

Per capita utilizable surface water

1

1951

361

5410

1911

2

1955

395

4944

1746

3

1991

846

2309

816

4

2001

1027

1902

672

5

2025(Projected)

1286

1519

495

6

2050(Projected)

1346

1451

421

Map 1: Stage of Ground Water Development of India

       Punjab is one of the smallest states of India with

·     Total Geographical area = 5.036 million hectare

       During the last few decades there has been a spectacular development 

       in      agriculture in Punjab. Nearly 80% of the water resources of

 Punjab are used by agriculture sector. It is quite evident from the

 figures :

·     Cropped area                          = 86%

·     Area under forests                  = 6%

·     Other                                      = 8%

·     Cropping Intensity                 = 189 %

·     Irrigated area                          = 97% of cropped area

·     Area irrigated by canals          = 27%

·     Area irrigated by tube wells    = 72%

Green Revolution has changed the overall scenario of Agriculture in Punjab. As a result of all this the state ‘s contribution in rice, wheat and cotton production both nationally and internationally is remarkable as shown in the table 2.

Table 2 Punjab’s Share in World and India

S. No.

Particulars

World’s ( % )

India ( % )

1

Punjab’s Land area

0.33

1.6

2

Punjab’s Rice contribution

1

42

3

Punjab’s wheat contribution

2

55

4

Punjab’s cotton contribution

2

24

 

With the advent of Green Revolution the state has developed its water resources effectively and a mesh of irrigation canals has been laid all over. Most of the existing canal irrigation systems in Punjab are located in south-western districts such as Bathinda, Ferozepur, Mansa, Faridkot, Muktsar, etc. The number of tube wells has increased to 11.68 lakhs in 2004-2005 from 1.28 lakhs in 1970-71. This development resulted in water table increase in south-western districts causing waterlogging and salinity problems and its decline in central districts. Table 3. shows  area irrigated in Punjab through different resources and extent of ground water development.

Table 3. Area Irrigated in Punjab Through Different Resources and

              Extent of Ground Water Development

S. No.

Districts

% Area Irrigated

Extent of Ground water Development (%)

Canal

Tube well

1

Amritsar

54

46

152

2

Bathinda

78

22

93

3

Faridkot

88

12

106

4

Fatehgarh Sahib

-

100

161

5

Ferozepur

37

63

105

6

Gurdaspur

11

88

107

7.

Hoshiarpur

9

90

85

8

Jalandhar

1

99

254

9.

Kapurthala

1

99

204

10.

Ludhiana

3

97

144

11.

Mansa

24

74

175

12.

Moga

4

96

178

13.

Muktsar

93

7

62

14

Nawan Shahr

4

96

175

15

Patiala

2

97

165

16

Rupnagar

2

98

93

17

Sangrur

7

93

183

Source: Statistical Abstract, Punjab. 2005

 It is clear from the table that almost 100 % of irrigated area in central districts is irrigated by groundwater. In the south-western districts the use of canal water is more than the ground water. During the last decade the average fall of water table in the central Punjab was o.55m/year ( Hira et. al 2004).At some places the ground water level declined at the rate of even 0.75 to 1m/year. On the other hand the water table is rising in south- western districts. Kandi area has it’s own problems of shortage of irrigation water in spite of heavy rainfall.

 

Existing and forecasted problems of water use in Punjab.

 

1 Faulty cropping practices: The primary reason for extraction of ground water in the Punjab is for agricultural purposes. The rice–wheat rotation has dramatically boosted the overall grain harvest in Punjab, but at the cost of ground water resources.

2. Ground water depletion: Ground water comes from under ground aquifers, which are fed from water trickling down through the soil. Agriculture with irrigation is considered sustainable only if the amount of ground water used is equal to that being replenished. Usually it is extracted much faster than it’s natural replenishment rate. The state of the World report, 1998 by the World Watch Institute in USA estimates that the gap between water use and sustainable yield of the aquifer is so high that the aquifer under Punjab could be depleted by year 2025

3. Water Pollution: The quality of ground water has become vulnerable in the number of areas of Punjab due to intensive use of agricultural chemicals and fertilizers, increased urbanization and industrialization.

4. Waterlogging: Waterlogging occurs where the water table rises close to the surface. Where the drainage has been inadequate, seepage from unlined canals and the over watering of the fields have raised the underlying water table in several areas in Punjab. Long term data shows that water tables are rising in 34% of Punjab, mainly in the south-west.

4. Salinity: Irrigation with brackish water causes salt to accumulate on the soil, and the process is called salinization. This problem is faced in South-western parts of Punjab because the ground water quality is poor. This is also the reason for less extraction of ground water.

5. Loss of water from canal A large amount of water is lost due to seepage in unlined canals and even in lined canals .e. g. in

Unlined canals (normal soils with some clay content )

                                          = 15 to 20 ha-m/day/million sq.m. of wetted area

Unlined canals (sandy soils with some silt content )

                                         = 25 to 30 ha-m/day/million sq.m. of wetted area

Lined canals    20% of above values

6. Desertification: The land is at present intensively cultivated under the green revolution at the expense of grazing and traditional long fallow periods. As such, there is a problem of land degradation and water scarcity due to over exploitation and the use of intensive agricultural practices. This will ultimately lead to the desertification of Punjab.

Hence the time has really come that we should start using our water resources rationally, so that we can save these vital resources for our next generations. To make the judicious use of water resources we should follow the following steps:

1.    Canal Water Management: The canal irrigation system was scientifically planned about five decades back keeping in view the then cropping pattern, cropping intensity and ground water quality and quantity situations. Since then a sea change has taken place in the cropping pattern, ground water development, cropping intensity, etc. The low water consuming crops like pulses and oilseeds have been replaced with high yielding varieties having greater demand for irrigation such as paddy and wheat. The number of tube well has increased manifold. So the operational schedule including water allowance, capacity factors for irrigation channels found at that time are no more relevant. It is therefore quite imperative that the canal water operational schedule must be revised keeping in view the prevailing irrigation needs, availability of water resources etc. for making an optimal utilization of water resources. Canals should be lined.

2.    On Farm Water Management: It has been experienced that the over all efficiency of the irrigation systems on the farmer’s field varies from 30 to 40% which can be increased to 60 to 70 % by adopting efficient water management strategies.

a) Precision land leveling: Unevenness in the soil surface adversely affects the uniform distribution of water in the fields. Now a day it is possible to do Precision land leveling on the fields, which seems to be leveled with naked eyes, with the help of Laser leveler which gives much better results than the earlier devices. Benefits of Laser leveling are:

i)    More level and smooth surface.

ii) Reduction in time and water required to irrigate the field.

             iii) More uniform distribution of water in the field.

             iv) More uniform moisture environment of the crops.

v) More uniform germination and growth of crops.

vi) Improved field traffic ability.

b)   Irrigation scheduling: Proper scheduling of irrigation to crops is an important component of water saving technologies. A tensiometer is developed by the Punjab Agricultural Scientists to schedule the irrigation in the paddy fields. The tensiometer can be used by the farmer himself. By using this tensiometer we can save upto 30 % of water.

c)    Improving the conveyance efficiency: The water lost in the farms during conveyance from source to the crops can be reduced by adopting Under Ground Pipe Line system. Water lost by seepage and evaporation can be reduced. By installing Under Ground Pipe Line system 3-4% of land can be saved which can be brought under cultivation.

d)   Adoption of improved irrigation methods:

i)    Furrow Irrigated Raised Beds: In this system wheat is planted on the top of the raised beds that are superficially reshaped for sowing of next crop. Irrigation is applied through furrows between the beds. The main advantage of bed planting is saving in water. About 30-40% of water is saved in this method.

ii)Furrow Irrigation method in wide row crops: Crops like maize, cotton, Sun-flower, Sugar-cane and vegetables should be grown on ridges and water should be applied through furrows. In furrow irrigation water loss can be reduced because the wetted area is reduced. Water lost due to evaporation from soil surface and due to percolation is reduced to much extent.

e) Micro Irrigation: The conventional methods of water conveyance and irrigation being highly inefficient has led not only to wastage of water but also to several ecological problems like waterlogging, salinization and soil degradation. It has been recognized that use of modern irrigation methods viz. drip and sprinkler irrigation is the only alternative for efficient use of surface as well as ground water resources. The water use efficiency in these systems is much higher than the flood method of irrigation.  The scheme on Micro irrigation which aims at increasing the area under efficient methods of irrigation viz. drip and sprinkler irrigation has been launched. This is a centrally sponsored scheme under which out of the total cost of the system 40% will be borne by the Central Government, 10% will be borne  by the state Govt. and the remaining 50% will be borne by the beneficiary. The Deptt. of Soil and Water Conservation is implementing this scheme in the state of Punjab.

f)   In situ Retention of rain water : In situ retention of rain water can help a lot in recharging the ground water . Studies have indicated that raising of peripheral bunds to a height of 18-20 cm around the fields could store nearly 90% of total rainwater in-situ for improved rice production and reduce the need of irrigation water.

 g)  Mulching:   Application of straw mulch improves the water use efficiency. It reduces the evaporation losses from the soil surface. Mulching keeps the weed down and improves the soil structure and eventually increases the crop yield. A novel promising approach recently developed and tested by the Australian and Indian collaborator is the “ Happy Seeder” which combines the stubble mulching and seed drilling functions into the one machine. The stubble is cut and picked up in the front of the sowing tynes (which therefore engage bare soil) and deposited behind the seed drill as a mulch.

3. Timely Transplanting: It is one of the effective strategies to arrest the falling water table in the state. The evapo-transpiration losses can be reduced by 25-30% by delaying of transplanting of paddy beyond 10th of June.

4. Suitable Varieties: Timely or late sown short duration varieties of             crops should be encouraged over early and long duration varieties to reduce evapo-transpiration losses. 

 

5.Conjuctive use of water: At present 30% of total canal water available at the outlet is utilized in the central Punjab comprising about 49%of the total geographical area of the state. As a result there is excessive withdrawal of ground water to meet the irrigation demand of the crops. Increased use of canal water in conjunction with groundwater in this region will help in arresting the declining trend of water table. On the other hand in the south-western districts the use of canal water is more because the ground water is not good. But the use of this ground water in conjunction with canal water in appropriate proportions helps in checking the rising water table.

6. Renovation of village ponds for irrigation: The village ponds, which once used to be very useful institutions, have now become a nuisance since they have become a source of environmental pollution especially during rainy seasons. A feasibility study carried out by Chawla et al (2001) has revealed that renovation of these ponds for providing irrigation is technically feasible. The quality of pond water is not only suitable for irrigation in most of the cases but also rich in nutrients, which is an added advantage. The renovation of these ponds for irrigation is of special importance in areas with declining water table. As a result of additional water available, the ground water draft in the declining water table area will be reduced and check the declining water table by about 6cm per year.

7.Crop diversification: In central Punjab, large scale adoption of rice-wheat system has been a major factor in over exploitation of ground water. Therefore, efforts should be made to divert area under paddy to alternate less water requiring crops. The success of crop diversification is possible only if the alternate crops provide returns to the farmers not less than being obtained by them from paddy crop.

8.Artificial recharge of Under Ground water: It is a promising strategy to arrest the declining water table. Various techniques being adopted to recharge the ground water in Punjab are:

a)   Roof Top Water Harvesting: The roof top rain water can be diverted to the existing open/bore well or the rain water from the roofs and the rain water available in the open spaces around the building may be recharged into the ground through the percolation pits, recharge trench or recharge wells depending on the conditions.   

b)   Recharge from Village Ponds: Almost all villages of Punjab have ponds, which have remained neglected over the last many years. So the seepage and recharge in these ponds over the period have been reduced. If these ponds are renovated i.e. de-silted, these could be effectively utilized for recharge purposes. It has been estimated (Chawla et.al.2002) that by adopting such work in village ponds in declining water table areas, the decline in water table may be reduced by about 5cm/year. One such project has been put in operation in village Chandiyani Khurd in Garshankar Tehsil of Hoshiarpur district by the department of Soil and Water Conservation.

c)  Recharge in Kandi Area: In this area the artificial recharge can be obtained by collecting the surface runoff through check dams hence making additional water available for percolation.

    Apart from these ground water can be recharged through drains and

    by increasing the dike heights in paddy field.

9. Policy Issues:

a ) There is need to enact proper ground water legislation to prevent

      indiscriminate exploitation of ground water resource.

 b) Water being the state subject, the State Water Authority should be set up with an aim to regulate and control ground water development. Alarmed at the dangerously worsening ground water situation in many blocks of Sangrur and Moga districts, the Central Ground Water Board has issued a notification seeking a ban on hand pumps, tube wells and other ’energised sources of water abstraction’ in these blocks.

c)  The use of flat rates for electricity combined with unreliable supplies adversely affects the use of ground water. So, there is need to revamp agricultural power supply and pricing structure.

10.Organizing farmer awareness camps: Farmer is the ultimate use of water So, he should be made aware of the griming situation of water resources and the techniques of water conservation should be explained and demonstrated to him by organizing awareness camps

Conclusions:  The faulty cropping pattern along with faulty agricultural practices has created a hydrological imbalance in Punjab. The demand of water is increasing due to increasing population, while the water resources are being exploited mercilessly without thinking for the future. Strategies for the rational use of water have been discussed which are not difficult to adopt. Now the time has come when the scientists, researchers, extension workers and farmers should join hand to save this precious resource.

References:

 

Chawala,J.K., S.D. Khepar, M.Siag and Dinesh Kumar 2001 Quality status and optimum utilization of village pond water, a case study. Ind.J.Environ.Hlth.43(3):114-118  

Chawala,J.K., S.D. Khepar, M.Siag2002 Economic feasibility of renovation of 

         village ponds for irrigation in kandi area of Punjab.57(1):91-98.

Hira,G.S., S.K. Jalota and V.K. Arora.2004. Efficient management of water

         resources for sustainable cropping in Punjab. Res. Bull. Deptt. of 

         Soils, P.A.U. Ludhiana Pp 20

 Gulati, H.S., Water resources management in cropping system

 Kumar, R. , R.D. Singh and K.D.Sharma 2005. Water resources of India.

         Current Science, Vol.89, No.5 

Rai, P.S. The management of the Indus river catchment  basin in the Punjab: 

         Crisis and Conflict

Lecture notes a) Kataria, D.R., Role of Resource conservation technologies   

          in efficient use of Irrigation Water  b)  Sondhi, S.K., Strategies for

          management of ground water resource in central Punjab.


 

* Soil Conservation Officer, Ludhiana-2