Water Management

Water is one of the basic necessities for life, and water scarcity is one of the most important limiting factors for sustainable development initiatives. Rural communities not only need clean water for drinking and basic hygiene, they also need water for growing crops and watering animals. At the same time, water has a destructive potential. Heavy rainfall over short periods can lead to massive erosion of soil, particularly on slopes where the soil is exposed. Rainfall over longer periods can lead to nutrient leaching as well as more catastrophic  events like landslides. Surface erosion is a natural process, but soil erosion in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan (HKH) region has increased drastically as a result of inappropriate land use and management, and the current amount exceeds the natural rates many times.

In the HKH region, water is generally found high up (snow and glaciers) or deep down in the valley bottoms. Most human settlements, however, lie inbetween on the mid slopes. Rainfall, the main source of water, is both seasonal and erratic in distribution, duration, and intensity. Water scarcity is a problem in most parts of the HKH region, even in those areas where the total annual rainfall is high. Cherrapunji in the northeastern Indian Himalayas is a good example: it is one of the world’s highest rainfall areas, but is called a ‘wet desert’ because it still suffers from water scarcity. Similarly, in Godavari, a typical mid hill area, 80% of the total annual rainfall falls during the monsoon period, the remaining eight months are more-or-less dry. Poor land management has led to increased water problems in the region; deforestation has increased surface runoff and decreased groundwater replenishment. For the estimated 150 million people of the HKH, water is a scarce commodity and improved water management practices are critical for ensuring the availability of drinking water, production of food, meeting the need for biomass, and for improved living conditions.

Water-related activities at the Godavari site focus on methods of water harvesting (collection, storage, and use of the run-off of available sources of water), to provide water for household and agricultural use, and land management practices to decrease runoff and soil erosion and increase water uptake and recharge of aquifers. Various methods have been tested that are appropriate for different needs and conditions. Sustainable harvesting of water, including rainwater, can contribute markedly to resolving the challenge of water scarcity for hill and mountain households.