An innovative approach to co-managing floods and groundwater depletion at the river basin scale
Seasonal floods are common occurrence within river basins causing large economic and social losses. During the rainy season, excess runoff in large volumes from the upstream parts of the basin often causes great damages downstream. On the other hand, some of the same regions faces shortage of water due to year-round agriculture production which is largely dependent on groundwater. Large quantities of water pumped for agriculture especially in dry season when surface water is limited can exceed the amount that is recharged by rainfall. This causes groundwater levels to fall with major consequences for all users of the resource.
This project tackles the dual challenges of floods and groundwater depletion. ‘Underground Taming of Floods for Irrigation’ (UTFI) involves targeted recharging of excess wet season flows in aquifers to protect lives and assets downstream and boosting agricultural productivity in the region. Through involvement of the local community, UTFI enables productive use of water by storing and improving access to it in times of need, thereby positively impacting the livelihoods of the people.
With the frequency and intensity of floods and droughts predicted to intensify in the near future, UTFI represents a new management approach that has the capacity to reduce climate-related vulnerability and risks. UTFI strengthens the linkages and inter-dependencies between communities in urban centers and those in rural areas upstream.
The ’value proposition’ revolves around transferring investments from traditional to more innovative approaches to managing flooding, irrigation and groundwater. Under existing programs, large funds are spent each year on relief and restoration efforts for flood victims and providing subsidies for groundwater extraction during the non-rainy season without creating permanent assets and tackling the root causes of the problem. This project presents an alternative model of investments which helps in both averting disasters and creating opportunities.
Our Theory of change envisions scaling up of the UTFI concept from an idea to practice through a series of activities from which involves identification, prefeasibility analysis, studying technical or social constraints to develop solutions and scaling up by knowledge dissemination to next users.
Outputs of the research would include a proof of concept based on detailed evaluations of pilot trials through technical guidelines, institutional arrangements and business models which would provide governments and other investors the evidence-base needed to enable large-scale rollout.
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Support: WLE, CCAFS, MAF Japan
Focal countries – India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, China
Project Touchpoints –