Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 16, Supplement 1, pp 83–95 | Cite as

Intra-annual dynamics of water stress in the central Indian Highlands from 2002 to 2012

  • Benjamin ClarkEmail author
  • Ruth DeFries
  • Jagdish Krishnaswamy
Original Article


India’s continued development depends on the availability of adequate water. This paper applies a data-driven approach to estimate the intra-annual dynamics of water stress across the central Indian Highlands over the period 2002–2012. We investigate the spatial distribution of water demanding sectors including industry, domestic, irrigation, livestock and thermal power generation. We also examine the vulnerability of urban centers within the study area to water stress. We find that 74 % of the area of the central Indian Highlands experienced water stress (defined as demand exceeding supply) for 4 or more months out of the year. The rabi (winter) season irrigation drives the intra-annual water stress across the landscape. The Godavari basin experiences the most surface water stress while the Ganga and Narmada basins experience water stress due to groundwater deficits as a result of rabi irrigation. All urban centers experience water stress at some time during a year. Urban centers in the Godavari basin are considerably water stressed, for example, Achalpur, Nagpur and Chandrapur experience water stress 8 months out of the year. Irrigation dominates water use accounting for 95 % of the total water demand, with substantial increases in irrigated land over the last decade. Managing land use to promote hydrologic functions will become increasingly important as water stress increases.


Water stress WaSSI Central India Water demand Irrigation 



We acknowledge the extensive use of MODIS data from NASA and ASTER DEM data from NASA/METI. We would also like to thank the Central Government India (GOI) and State Government of Madhya Pradesh (GOMP) for making available a rich set of data to carry out this work, including the 18th Round of Livestock Census data from Department of Animal Husbandry (GOI), the Minor Irrigation Census data Rounds 2, 3 and 4 from Department of Water Resource (GOI), Environmental Clearance letter from the Ministry of Environment (GOI), Survey of India (GOI), Department of Forests and Climate Change, Madhya Pradesh (GOMP), data from the Green Clearance Watch and data for major irrigation schemes made available by the Water Resources Department, Madhya Pradesh (GOMP).

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental BiologyColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE)Suri Sehgal Centre for Biodiversity and ConservationBangaloreIndia

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