Overview Objectives

Water use in semi-arid parts of India is shaped by the annual monsoonal cycle. Changes in this cycle, such as a delay in rains or slight declines can impact adversely on crops. These changes coinciding with critical junctures in the rainy season or Kharif crop can result in significant reductions in crop yields. Managing water shortages is, therefore, critical to the success of crops. Reductions in yield can lower already low incomes, reduce local employment opportunities and compound impacts in the wider village communities and even state.

Farmers have managed this uncertainty through exploiting groundwater, a practice made easier through advances in pumping technology. The spread of this technology and the associated, easy affordability of water has resulted in massive expansion of groundwater use. India uses 230 km of groundwater per year (more than a quarter of the global total), making it the largest user in the world. More than 60 per cent of water needs for agriculture come from groundwater sources. Eighty-five per cent of drinking water is from the same sources.

Recharging, or replenishing of groundwater is vital to the long-term sustainability of water use. Groundwater in many areas is over-exploited, placing serious pressure on water management options. A range of on-ground works to recharge groundwater are being implemented at village scale throughout India, under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. This is designed to enhance livelihood opportunities and develop a durable asset base.

The opportunity to improve the security of water supply, including irrigation which is a substantial part of dry season cropping, must link to livelihood opportunities for rural communities. Acheiving this, the focus of this research, relies on ensuring rainwater harvesting and groundwater recharge systems and structures are viable. Demand management strategies at village levels are also part of this research approach.

This study will be conducted in Sabarkantha district in Gujarat and Udaipur district in Rajasthan. Both districts are in hard rock aquifer areas and provide a diversity of transdisciplinary research issues in groundwater recharge and management. Systematic analysis of the groundwater situation, and livelihood opportunities will be carried out as part of this research initiative.

A range of hydrologic, agronomic, economic, social and cultural data at selected clusters of villages will be collected over a period of four years. Bio-physical and socio-economic tools and models will be developed or adapted to evaluate the current issues of surface water and groundwater management. Options and strategies to improve the long-term access to groundwater will be identified. This will also help provide a scientific and evidenced-based input to enhance watershed development policies, and regenerate the natural resource base in irrigated farming systems.

Progress Reports (Year 1, 2, 3 etc)

The aim of this report is to describe the activities undertaken in project LWR/2010/015, between September 2011 and May 2012. The progress achieved to date, in relation to the project milestones as outlined in the original proposal, are summarised. The report also contains appendices that contain a more detailed description of activities and results achieved in the project.
The project effectively commenced with an inception workshop in October 2011 in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. The workshop was attended by key researchers from University of Western Sydney (UWS), Development Support Centre (DSC), International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Maharana Pratap University of Agriculture and Technology (MPUAT) and Vidya Bhawan Krishi Vigyan Kendra (VBKVK). The workshop helped to review the aims, methodology and milestones of the project, understand in more depth the field site in Gujarat and engage with local farmers and stakeholders in the study area.
The next important achievement of the project during this reporting period was the signing of contracts with the various partners. Although there was some delay in the signing of contracts by some partners until mid-May 2012 the project work did continue informally with some partners.
A project workshop was organised at Udaipur, Rajasthan during February 14-18, 2012. The aim of this workshop was to develop a common vision for the project, visit field sites in Rajasthan and develop a detailed project plan and implementation strategies. The workshop consisted of three days of in-house group work, presentations and discussions and a day-long field trip to the study area, the Dharta Watershed. The workshop was attended by a total of 32 researchers from UWS, CSIRO, Arid Communities and Technologies (ACT), DSC, IWMI, MPUAT and VBKVK. The workshop was co-hosted by MPUAT and VBKVK and the Watershed Development Unit (Udaipur Jila Parishad, Government of Rajasthan) and was facilitated by Professor Roger Packham.
The field trip included a visit to three key villages, viz. Sunderpura, Dharta and Hinta and the main purpose of this trip was to observe first-hand the situation of the watershed selected for this study, meet with villagers and other stakeholders to explain the purpose of this project and hear their views about the situation of groundwater. The trip was led by Mr M.L. Chhajed, Executive Engineer and his staff from the Watershed Development Unit.
The project team met with groups of local farmers, other villagers, school children and teachers and Sarpanches (Village Council Mayors) from five Panchayats (village councils) in the study watershed. A number of issues as to the groundwater situation and its impact on farming, livelihood opportunities and fluoride in drinking water were discussed and how the ACIAR project and the Watershed Development project can work together to improve water and livelihood situations in the study area.
Based on the field trip, the project team worked on methodology, formed research groups, shared approaches for effective collaboration and developed a work plan with specific details for the next six months and an overall work plan for the duration of the project.
Other important achievements during this period were: (i) development of a socio-economic survey instrument, (ii) procurement of instruments for monitoring groundwater quality and depth, (iii) weather stations (iv) appointment of 25 village volunteers (called Bhujal Jaankars, BJs) and (v) inventory of wells and recharge structures in the Rajasthan study area.

This report highlights the key activities and significant achievements of the project LWR/2010/015 during June 2012 - May 2013. Further details of activities, work plan for the next 12 months and results achieved in the project are presented in Appendices.
A project workshop and intensive fieldwork were organised at the Gujarat site during February 17-23, 2013 and more fieldwork was held at the Rajasthan site during February 24 - March 1, 2013. The aim of the workshop in Gujarat was to review the progress of the work at both sites and develop a detailed work plan for the next 12 months. The workshop was attended by a total of 26 researchers and extension specialists from UWS, CSIRO, ACT, DSC, IWMI, MPUAT and VBKVK.
A total of 25 Bhujal Jankaars, BJs (a Hindi word meaning Groundwater Masters at village level) were recruited at the Rajasthan site and 9 BJs at the Gujarat site. During the last 12 months, the BJs were trained on a number of relevant aspects, such as in mapping, GIS, watertable and water quality measurements and observations related to geologic aspects. The BJs have now monitored groundwater levels on a weekly basis for over 10 months. While BJs are monitoring groundwater, they have also helped to develop good linkage between this project and local communities and create awareness about the groundwater issues in the two study areas. The preliminary evaluation of the BJ approach indicated that BJs interact extensively with their communities as they do their measurement tasks on a weekly basis, and they are keen to share project outputs that are written in the local language and tailored to the needs of village communities, particularly sharing some observed watertable data to indicate the state of groundwater fluctuations in the area.
Two automatic weather stations, one in each study area, have been installed to collect local weather information for water balance modelling and evaluating the effectiveness of recharge structures on groundwater levels. In addition, five rain gauges have been installed in local Schools at the Rajasthan site and two at the Gujarat site for additional data spread over the two watersheds.
Two groundwater depth sensors were installed at the Rajasthan site on a trial basis in July 2012. The sensors have provided valuable watertable depth data monitored at 5 min interval during July - December 2012 and this monitoring is continuing. Preliminary analysis of watertable data from these sensors and data collected by BJs in the two sites has been carried out to understand how the water levels in wells fluctuate with rain and pumping events. A draft water balance model (based on Excel) has been developed and will be tested using a range of input data and will be refined further over the next six months. Considering the success of these sensors, six additional sensors have been procured and three will be installed in each site in July 2013. Eight water meters (four in each watershed) will also be installed to measure pumped volume and water productivity calculation for specific crops.
In an effort to engage government agencies, policy makers and researchers from organisations outside this project, a one-day workshop titled ‘The Policy Dialogue on Groundwater Governance and Managed Aquifer Recharge’ was organised at DSC, Ahmedabad on February 19, 2013. The workshop was attended by a total of 40 participants and helped to develop a deeper understanding of groundwater recharge strategies, successes and limitations and identify specific data gap for effective governance, policy and implementation of groundwater recharge initiatives. The workshop was well covered by State level newspapers and TV network.
We are now working in close collaboration with five schools in Rajasthan and seven in Gujarat to engage students and teachers through monitoring and education activities. This collaboration is helping to spread the message to local communities about groundwater quantity and quality issues and the schools are also providing a local hub for meetings with villagers.
The design, implementation and data collation for the socio-economic survey has been completed for 800 randomly selected households located in the two study areas (500 in Gujarat and 300 in Rajasthan). The data analysis is currently underway and the results of this will aid in connecting hydrologic and agronomic data being collected to assist in groundwater policy dialogue at different levels (farmers, NGOs. Government agencies, policy makers, women groups and school communities). Also, a survey of MAR structures in Rajasthan and Gujarat has been completed in April 2013 and thematic maps showing the locations of recharge structures have been prepared.
To assess the current level of awareness about water security issues among students, surveys of secondary school students were carried out during February-March 2013 in both Gujarat and Rajasthan study areas. In total 34 students in Gujarat and 38 students in Rajasthan (mostly year 8 students) participated in the surveys covering both water scarcity and water quality issues, including causes and solutions of these. In both states high degree of awareness among students on water scarcity issues was evident, more prominently in Gujarat. Water quality was identified by a lesser number of students as an issue. The survey indicated that water scarcity, especially during summer months, is leading to greater demand on students time for household activities (especially of girl students to help fetch water) and this may be leading to students getting late to schools or missing school attendance altogether up to 4 days a month.
In summary, the last 12 months have helped in the collection of baseline data (socio-economic, topography, water quality and climatic) and fine-tuning groundwater and weather monitoring. There has also been progress in advancing a ‘transdisciplinary and holistic’ approach to the research in this project through team members from different discipline groups connecting with one another

The project LWR/2010/015 has significantly progressed in relation to the project milestones and outputs during the last year (June 2013 and May 2014). The highlights of the important activities and achievements are described in this report.
Key achievements over the last 12 months include on-going monitoring of rainfall, watertable depths and groundwater quality in wells and water level fluctuations in selected anicuts. For both study areas, GIS maps were developed with layers showing the distribution of open and tube wells and anicuts. A total of four additional groundwater sensors were installed to cover a greater range of watertable fluctuations in the two study areas. Six water flow meters (two in the Dharta watershed and four in the Meghraj watershed) were installed for accurate measurement of the volume of irrigation water being pumped out from wells, particularly to aid in the collection of local data on water requirement of the selected crops. Based on watertable fluctuation data monitored in this study over two years and those by the Central Groundwater Board over the last 10 years, a methodology has been developed to analyse interactions between rainfall and groundwater recharge and trends in water table fluctuation.
There has been some significant progress made in the engagement with the farming community through water table monitoring by Bhujal Jaankars (BJs), targeted community workshops and work with the local schools. This has helped to create awareness and develop a suitable atmosphere for future meaningful dialogue with the community for sustainable use and management of local groundwater resources.
Two community workshops were organised during February 2014 in the Dharta watershed in Rajasthan and the Meghraj watershed in Gujarat. The workshops were attended by about 210 farmers and other stakeholders (120 in the Dharta watershed and 90 the Meghraj watershed). These workshops indicated that farming and village communities were deeply concerned about groundwater quality and the rapidly declining watertables. They are willing to explore options that will help in improved water availability for irrigation and drinking purposes but are currently more focused on water availability in their individual wells and not appreciating that groundwater needs to be managed at the village and watershed levels and beyond.
A newsletter in Hindi, called ‘MARVI Manthan’ (A Hindi word Manthan meaning deep contemplation) was launched in February 2014 to share the project findings with village communities. This newsletter will be published twice a year to coincide with the beginning of Rabi and Kharif seasons. The target audience of this newsletter are farmers, the general community and other stakeholders, and it is expected that the newsletter will help the project by connecting with local communities and pursuing dialogue with farmers for participatory use and management of local groundwater resources.
The school engagement program of this project is progressing quite well in a number of ways including a poster and painting competition on a range of topics such as drip irrigation, water harvesting, soil testing and climate change. A draft of the ‘resource book’ has been prepared in consultation with teachers. The book covers eight broad topics, viz., importance and scarcity of water, water cycle, groundwater and recharge, agriculture, food and water, sanitation and hygiene, pollution and water quality and water management. The book will be finalised by the end of September 2014 and will be translated into Gujarati and Hindi and printed copies will be distributed to schools in early 2015.
A number of research papers based on the data collected so far are being developed. For example, a draft review paper ‘Saurashtra’s Groundwater Recharge Movement: A Systematic Review of Evidence of Impact’ has been prepared to critically analyse the efficacy and socio-economic impacts of groundwater recharge experiments in Gujarat, Rajasthan and elsewhere in India. A policy paper ‘Strategic Choices in Rajasthan’s Irrigation Economy’ that explores alternative storage and irrigation options for the Rajasthan state as a whole was presented to the Planning Commission of India and to the Chief Minister of Rajasthan and subsequently presented to state-level policy makers and planners. This paper has opened avenues for future engagement with policy makers in the context of this project.
Photo-voice workshops were organised in villages and schools in both watersheds during September 2013 - February 2014 period. Students and farmers were trained in photography (most of them had never touched a camera in their lives) and actively participated in these workshops and captured photographs regarding their past, present and future thoughts about water resources and groundwater as one of the critical factors of livelihood in village communities. This activity significantly engaged villagers, teachers and students and helped them to think about their current groundwater situation and some options they may like to pursue to improve the situation.
Bhujal Jaankar’s (BJs) have now become an integral part of the engagement process and data collection activities in the project in both study areas. There is now an increasing acceptance of BJs in village communities in regards to the source of information about the local rainfall, extent of water table fluctuations and groundwater quality. They have also become an important link between the project team and the village communities for mobilising farmers for project meetings, field demonstrations and dissemination of research findings from the project.
In summary, significant progress has been made in the project in terms of data collection and analysis and community and school engagements. Over the next 12 months, in addition to on-going monitoring and engagement activities, the work in the project will focus on effectively integrating project outputs across different activities and disciplines. This will particularly assist in an effective dialogue with village communities, government agencies, including policy makers at the state and national levels, for participatory management of groundwater. Furthermore, the project will also focus on developing framework and options/scenarios for sustainable use of groundwater and providing data and outputs to help local agencies to implement appropriate groundwater management interventions.

The project has significantly progressed in relation to the project milestones and outputs. The highlights of the important activities and achievements are:
The project has now collected rich data sets through monitoring of rainfall, watertable depths and groundwater quality in wells and water level fluctuations in selected anicuts. The additional data collected during the last 12 months includes monitoring deep groundwater through 32 abandoned tubewells, 10 in the Dharta watershed and 22 in the Meghraj watershed and irrigation water volume used for different crops in selected farms. Although the data collection will continue for another 6-8 months, the main focus now is to complete the data analysis, interpret data, present them to the village community in a form that farmers can understand and use them to improve their farming practices and to sustainably use groundwater. Further, provide analysed data and outputs (e.g., maps) to the State Government agencies in the watershed to use in the implementation of watershed development works.
There has been some significant progress made in capacity building of Bhujal Jaankars (BJs), research staff and post-graduates through targeted training, data analysis and modelling. Further efforts were made during the last 12 months to engage community about participatory groundwater management and to explore future options for groundwater use that matched with annual recharge volumes.
An international workshop titled ‘Water Security and Groundwater Management in the Age of Climate Change’ was organised during February 2015 in New Delhi in collaboration with another ACIAR project (LWR/2007/113). The aim of the workshop was to present the research findings from the project to policy makers, researchers and other stakeholders. Over 60 participants attended the workshop. One key message from this workshop was that there is a need to encourage farmers to develop participatory cooperative water resource management, and to use data about the current status of their groundwater availability to convince them of the amount of sustainable extraction, and then help them to achieve this level of extraction. Also, the workshop participants emphasised the need to manage groundwater locally and farmers to be genuinely engaged and empowered to manage their water resources with a view to adapting to climate change.
Key informant interviews were conducted during February 2015 with a total of over 70 participants in the two watersheds to understand indigenous groundwater knowledge and its role in future sustainability of groundwater use. A number of aspects of indigenous knowledge about groundwater and its management were explored with the participants. The next step is to compare this knowledge with the scientifically collected information from the MARVI project. Not only will this enable the project to compare the two knowledge systems, it will also help the overall MARVI project team to better identify ways to explain the scientific data collected, and to use this to identify desirable and feasible action steps to improve groundwater management at village level.
Two issues of a newsletter in Hindi, called ‘MARVI Manthan’ (A Hindi word Manthan meaning deep contemplation) were published since the last Annual Report and distributed widely to share the project findings with village communities. The newsletter coincides with the beginning of Rabi and Kharif seasons. The target audience of this newsletter are farmers, the general community and other stakeholders, and it is helping the project by sharing the research findings with local communities and creating conversation with farmers for participatory use and management of local groundwater resources. In regards to the school engagement program, the ‘Resource Book’ is in the final stage of preparation. Similarly a resource book for BJs is being finalised to help with their training program. Both books will be translated into Hindi and Gujarati.
During the last 12 months, more field demonstrations, on-farm field trials and field days were organised in both watersheds to bring awareness among farmers about agricultural productivity improvement, soil water conservation practices and effective water management. The demonstration included the use of mulches to improve soil moisture conservation and enhance maize yield, the application of Vermicompost and farm yard manure (FYM) to improve maize yields and water productivity and the application of Zn (a trace element) in addition to N and P to improve wheat yields and enhance overall income of farmers. Field demonstrations on improved varieties of mustard and integrated nutrient management were conducted in the project areas of Rajasthan to enhance mustard yield and save water. More than 100 farmers including farm women benefitted from the field days organised at demonstration sites in the project areas.
There has been some significant achievement in terms of communication and dissemination of project findings: two journal articles in peer reviewed international journals and one book chapter are accepted and currently in press, five journal articles are under review and another three are under preparation. One article from the work in this project titled ‘Evaluating the Effectiveness of Water Infrastructures for Increasing Groundwater Recharge and Agricultural Production - A Case Study of Gujarat, India’ was published recently in Agricultural Water Management journal The study indicated a significant net increase in water storage (by 5890 M m3 after water used for crop intensification) and increase in agricultural crop area (by 63862 km2) in the State during the period of intensification in infrastructures for water storage and groundwater recharge. Results also indicated that some districts have higher net water storage (compared to 2003) but the cropped area duration (PCDI) did not increase much (e.g., in Valsad and Navsari). The findings of this study will help improve the understanding of the potential of groundwater recharge structures and provide valuable guidance for increasing cropped areas in high water storage regions of Gujarat. A policy brief is currently being prepared by IWMI to translate the findings of this article for the government agencies and policy makers in Gujarat.
Bhujal Jaankar’s (BJs) from the project are providing their services to other natural resources management projects being implemented in Gujarat and Rajasthan for engagement process and data collection activities. This is a sign of increasing level of acceptance of BJs for implementing watershed development works and research and indicates that BJ approach developed in the ACIAR project has an important role in engaging local people to help them co-operatively develop solutions suited to their needs and situations. In general, the BJs continue to be an important link between the project team and the village communities for mobilising farmers for project meetings, field demonstrations and dissemination of research findings from the project. The next challenge for the project is to find some mechanism and approach to transform the BJ program so that BJs can become a mainstream resource for implementing agencies at the village level throughout the country.
In summary, the major part of the data collection is complete in the project, and the main focus now over the next 8-10 months is to translate data into farmer friendly knowledge and tools that will help change the practice of farmers and save groundwater while improving livelihood opportunities. The work in the project will also focus on strengthening the integration of project outputs across different activities and disciplines and develop framework and options/scenarios for sustainable use of groundwater and providing data and outputs to help local agencies to implement appropriate groundwater management interventions.

The project LWR/2010/015 is in the advance stages of completion. The project was externally reviewed in February 2016 and was given an extension for final completion until June 2017. The highlights of the important activities and achievements are described in this report.

The project now has completed rich data sets through monitoring of rainfall, watertable depths in dug wells and tubewells and groundwater quality in wells and water level fluctuations in selected check dams over the last four years. Some on-going monitoring of wells and check dams by BJs (Bhujal Jankaar) is still continuing. The main focus of the last 12 months has been to complete the data analysis, interpret data, present them to village communities and stakeholders in the state and central government agencies and initiate a dialogue to adopt outputs of the project and take the work to the next stage for longer term impacts beyond the tenure of this project.

A water balance model was developed and applied to the Dharta watershed to estimate recharge from four check dams monitored over the last two years. Area and volume-elevation curves were determined by level surveys and rainfall and water levels in these structures, and in adjacent wells, were monitored through the monsoon period to calculate runoff, recharge, spill and evaporation for each structure. Elevations of ponded water and of groundwater in nearby wells were compared to determine the nature of surface water-groundwater interactions. The water balance analysis of three of the four anicuts monitored during the 2014 monsoon indicate that with a rainfall of approximately 580 mm and the total wet period of between 20 to 30 days, hydraulic loadings achieved were 2.8 to 5.7m, resulting in a preliminary estimate of total recharge of 308,000 m3 which is sufficient to supply supplemental irrigation for 77 ha, and thereby supports about 18% of the irrigated agriculture in this area. Calculations suggest that total harvested water averages approximately 47% of stream flow, but varies significantly between check dams and that the evaporative loss is approximately 9% of the captured water.

Specific efforts were made for the capacity building of BJs through their visit to Andhra Pradesh to learn about participatory groundwater management. This visit and other engagement activities have helped to initiate a dialogue about forming ‘Village Groundwater Co-operative’ (VGCs) in the two study watersheds. The dialogue has resulted in identification of a number of issues and challenges related to the sharing of groundwater among farmers. A total of five groups in the Dharta watershed and six in the Meghraj watershed have been formed and the next step over 4-5 months is to progress the idea of VGC through the support of the State and Central government agencies.

The project team members were invited to share the findings at the South Asia Groundwater Forum organised by IWA and the World Bank in Jaipur during 1-3 June 2016. This was a valuable opportunity to showcase the project findings at the national and the South Asia levels and helped to connect with the potential funders and implementing agencies to up-scale the project findings beyond the two study watersheds. The main messages delivered at the Forum were that participatory groundwater monitoring can successfully converge the expectations of farmers and scientists and can provide a sound basis for participatory management in the semi-arid hard rock areas of South Asia. Managed aquifer recharge, which is already valued by farmers, requires government intervention and the BJ program could be used to assist in the development of localised groundwater management within the context of a whole of watershed or basin plan.

The project had significant coverage in the media at state and national levels during February to June this year. This included an article in the Gujarati weekly magazine, Abhiyan, about the BJ program and two news stories in the Times of India about the need for participatory groundwater management and how the BJ approach can be used to improve the groundwater situation in India. This has helped the project in sharing the project learnings and findings with a wider community and creating conversation on participatory use and management of local groundwater resources.

In summary, the major part of the data collection is complete in the project and the main focus now is to translate data into farmer friendly knowledge and tools that will help change the practices of farmers and save water while improving livelihood opportunities. Bhujal Jankaar’s (BJs) from the project are becoming part of other projects being implemented in Gujarat and Rajasthan for engagement process and data collection activities. Over the next 12 months, the work in the project will also focus on strengthening the integration of project outputs with existing projects of the State and Central Governments as well as linking with the groundwater component of the Hydrology project being developed by the World Bank and Government of India.

Project ID
Project Country
Inactive project countries
Commissioned Organisation
University of Western Sydney, Australia
Project Leader
Dr Basant Maheshwari
02 4570 1235
02 4570 1787
Collaborating Institutions
CSIRO Land and Water, Australia
International Water Management Institute, India
Maharana Pratap University of Agriculture and Technology, India
Vidhya Bhawan Krishi Vigyan Kendra, India
Development Support Centre, India
Project Budget
Start Date
Finish Date
Extension Start Date
Extension Finish Date
ACIAR Research Program Manager
Dr Evan Christen