Tiffin Talk: Sustainable Water Management: Challenges in India

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12 December 2013 12:45 pm

By Dr. K. P. Sudheer, IIT Madras

The relation between water and food is a struggle for over two thirds of the world's 850 million under-nourished people, where water is a key constraint to food security. The per capita water availability in India is declining continuously, and is likely to reach the stress/scarcity levels in some regions within the next few years. This has lead to injudicious abstraction of surface and ground water resulting in several problems including rapidly declining water table levels and salt water intrusion in coastal areas. The increased frequency of extreme events (especially drought) may further lead to unavailability of water to meet current irrigation demands.  Irrigation water demand is still increasing because the area being irrigated continues to expand. The great challenge for the coming decades will be the task of increasing food production with less water (water use efficiency), particularly in countries with limited water and land resources. The major issues concerning water use efficiency include a decreasing water supply, allocation and optimum use of available water, and problems arising from the weak implementation of policies and the rather slow adoption of available technologies for improved water use efficiency. To address these concerns, water use efficiency must be enhanced through various holistic and integrated approaches. These include technological advances, innovative participatory approaches, and appropriate policies and support services in irrigation system management to ensure wider application and sustainability of efforts at the community or farmers' field level. The challenge ahead lies in developing institutions that can integrate management of ground and surface water irrigation; integrate management of irrigation at a farm, system, and basin level; allocate water equitably among competing uses and users, including environmental services; and address the problems of irrigation development, including the impact of using wastewater on the environment and human health. In this talk, the challenges that India is facing today in terms of water management and some case studies are discussed. 

About the Speaker

Dr. K. P. Sudheer is an Associate Professor and Head of the Environmental and Water Resources Engineering Division of the Department of Civil Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, Chennai. He currently leads a group focusing on research applications of modern computing tools to water resources analysis and hydrologic modelling. He obtained his Bachelors (Agricultural Engineering) from Kerala Agricultural University in 1991. Further, he received his Masters from the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur in 1994, and his Doctorate from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi in 2000.