UTFI’s Multi-Disciplinary Approach

Underground Taming of Floods for Irrigation (UTFI) involves diverting high water flows from rivers or canals at times when these flows pose flood risk and recharging the groundwater via village ponds or small dams that are modified for this purpose. The project involves locals with support from higher level authorities. A holistic approach brings together various strands of activities to help understand the complex issues associated with flood and groundwater management.


Regional Mapping of Opportunities

New approaches are being developed to map areas where UTFI model appears to have potential prior to carrying out more detailed assessments. Maps have been prepared for the Ganges Basin and Sri Lanka and are planned for other regions.


Hydrological Modelling, System Planning, Design, Implementation and Evaluation

Process-based hydrologic as well as hydraulic models are being developed to simulate and validate the biophysical elements of the UTFI concept. These models provide tools that can support the planning, design and evaluation of field trials in specific watersheds. All of the models (groundwater, catchment hydrology and river hydraulic) have been developed with the aim of working in tandem so as to get a more accurate representation of processes at any point. Final models will answer questions such as how UTFI interventions may impact downstream canal water flows during both the dry and wet seasons. The models also evaluate the potential of UTFI to enhance the level of delivery of ecosystem services such as flood control, groundwater recharge and dry season water availability.

The project looks at design of recharge interventions that are low cost, low-tech, robust and easily managed by farmers and local communities. With the help of baseline data, this will feed into the design and pilot scale implementation. The setup, performance monitoring and evaluation of pilot trials is being undertaken in selected watersheds.


Institutional, Economic and Gender Analysis

Understanding challenges on the ground such as making land available for recharge, mobilization of local communities and farmers to setup, manage interventions and act collectively are instrumental to the success of the project. To achieve this, understanding the current situation pertaining to institutions, policies, economics, cost & benefit and livelihoods is imperative along with developing viable solutions through UTFI interventions.

The gender component of the project looks into how UTFI can differentially affect women and other socially disaggregated groups. It will identify defined entry points for the inclusion of marginal land holders, landless, women into UTFI processes. Incentive schemes are planned to be tested (e.g. through funds, labor-demand) to benefit the poorest, most vulnerable and marginalized members of the communities in the targeted pilot areas.


Capacity Building, Partnerships and Communications

Participation of people is an integral part of the project. To facilitate this, we are exploring innovative ways of educating, engaging and involving stakeholders at different levels from local to national through field trips, workshops and consultations. The feedback collected at each interaction is looped back into the research process to better it. The project is looking at building long term partnerships for better implementation and management.

In addition, to aid quick access to information, this project website has been developed which will contain all material from project briefs to reports and videos related to the project. Knowledge dissemination is also done through communication materials like brochures, film and discussion briefs.


Technical guidelines and business models

Synthesis of the key research findings from the technical and non-technical activities along with targeted studies aimed at strengthening utility of the research is being undertaken. Technical guidelines will be developed based on the collective experiences from the operational pilots aimed largely at implementing agencies and other relevant stakeholders. Context specific business cases will be prepared specifically to inform investors and other interested proponents.


Where are we working?

** The list includes India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand and China. More regions are likely to be added in future



Pilot @ Jiwai Jadid, Uttar Pradesh, India

The aim of the pilot is to study and understand the technical aspects such as recharge rates, changes in water quality and socio-economic impacts of implementing UTFI in a gender inclusive manner.


Site Selection

To identify a suitable site for UTFI, several datasets on flood characteristics, extreme rainfall events, landuse, population density and soils were used. By analyzing the datasets a few candidate villages were selected in Rampur district and after detailed fieldwork and comprehensive stakeholder consultations, Jiwai Jadid was selected as the pilot site. A community pond which was located besides an irrigation canal was identified as the ideal site to carry out the pilot.


Site Development

Panchayat, the local village body and local community were engaged right from the beginning and a MoU was signed with them indicating their willingness to participate. With active support from villagers, ground implementation of UTFI concept in Jiwai Jadid village was undertaken. This extensive process included dewatering and excavating a pond to a depth of around 2 meters. The pond was then retrofitted with ten wells filled with filter material and a thin plastic pipe running down the middle to aid groundwater recharge.

In the pilot, the excess surface water during wet season is diverted from the nearby irrigation canal into the pond via a desilting chamber and stored underground through the recharge structures. Wastewater which used to flow into the pond from households nearby was diverted by constructing new concrete drains. Local people from the village helped out the team and the implementation agency with many manual earthworks.


Site Monitoring

After the operationalization of the pilot in September 2015, IWMI and its partners are regularly monitoring the site. Water samples are being collected and analyzed bi-monthly from the source (canal), recharge wells and piezometers that have been specifically constructed to understand the changes in water quality. Simultaneously, the team is collecting baseline socio-economic data to help understand impact of the intervention over time and economics of replication. With support from higher authorities, local people have been engaged to maintain the site.

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