Skip to main content

Understanding the water conservation and management in India: an integrated study


India is a sub-continent with different physiography, climate, and agro-ecology. This variability supports changes in rainfall and water resources across the country. Due to various developmental activities such as agriculture, industry, and services, the ever-increasing demand for surface water and groundwater resources is declining at an alarming rate. However, in India, water management and conservation projects occur in a clustered and irrational manner, often at the discretion of individuals or democratic organizations. This has prompted the country to re-examine and reevaluate the National Water Policy strategies and adopt artificial recharge of aquifers elongated with natural solutions. Given this background, this paper accentuates the necessity for a rigorous and integrated effort to decentralize water conservation and management activities by reestablishing the antiquity of conservation practices for natural resources in India. In addition, the present paper attempts to understand how changes in behavioral practices related to water have affected water availability through making synergies between surface water, groundwater, and energy to achieve water efficiency and accessibility in the long run. Specific policies, planning, and program level interventions in different water conservation practices are discussed to address the study's objective. Also, the role of climate variability on the spatio-temporal deviations in input (water) management of agriculture and domestic use in light of the existing discord between technology and policy is reviewed.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6.


  1. Abrol YP, Sangwan S, Tiwari MK (Eds) (2002) Land use—historical perspectives: focus on Indo-Gangetic plains. Allied Publishers

  2. Agarwal A (2008) Role of NGOs in the protection of environment. J Environ Res Dev 2(4):933–938

    Google Scholar 

  3. Alam M, Murray LA (2005) Facing up to climate change in South Asia. IEED

  4. Amarasinghe UA, Smakhtin V (2014) Global water demand projections: past, present and future, vol 156. IWMIs

  5. Amarasinghe UA, Singh OP, Sakthivadivel R, Palanisami K (2010) State of irrigation in Tamilnadu: trends and turning points. Int Water Manage Inst 5:275–304

    Google Scholar 

  6. Anonymous (2017) Indian  water  portal.

  7. Arimoro AE, Musa H (2020) Towards sustainable water resource management in rural Nigeria: The role of communities. J Sustain Dev Law Policy (The) 11(1):1–17

  8. Asthana V (2009) Water policy processes in India: discourses of power and resistance. Routledge

    Google Scholar 

  9. Bakker K (2012) Water security: research challenges and opportunities. Science 337:914–915

    Google Scholar 

  10. Bandyopadhyay J, Perveen S (2004) Interlinking of rivers in India: assessing the justifications. Econ Political Wkly 5307–5316

  11. Bansil PC (2004) Water management in India. Concept Publishing Company, New Delhi

    Google Scholar 

  12. Bassi N (2015) Irrigation and energy nexus: Solar pumps are not viable. Econ Polit Wkly 63–66

  13. Behera B, Mishra P (2018) Democratic local institutions for sustainable management and use of minor irrigation systems: experience of Pani Panchayats in Odisha, India. Water Econ Policy 4(3):1850010

    Google Scholar 

  14. Bevir M, Rhodes RA (2001) A decentered theory of governance: rational choice, institutionalism, and interpretation

  15. Bhaduri A, Amarasinghe U, Shah T (2006) Groundwater irrigation expansion in India: an analysis and prognosis. Draft prepared for the IWMI-CPWF project on “Strategic Analysis of National River Linking Project of India”

  16. Bhan S (2013) Land degradation and integrated watershed management in India. Int Soil Water Conserv Res 1(1):49–57

    Google Scholar 

  17. Bhanja SN, Mukherjee A, Rodell M, Wada Y, Chattopadhyay S, Velicogna I, Famiglietti JS (2017) Groundwater rejuvenation in parts of India influenced by water-policy change implementation. Sci Rep 7(1):1–7

    Google Scholar 

  18. Bhat TA (2014) An analysis of demand and supply of water in India. J Environ Earth Sci 4(11):67–72

    Google Scholar 

  19. Bhattacharyya R, Ghosh BN, Dogra P, Mishra PK, Santra P, Kumar S, Sarkar D (2016) Soil conservation issues in India. Sustainability 8(6):565

    Google Scholar 

  20. Central  Water Commission (2013) Dynamic Ground Water Resources of India, Ministry of Water Resources, Government of India, p 225

  21. CGWB (2011) Dynamic ground water resources of India

  22. Chowdary VM, Ramakrishnan D, Srivastava YK, Chandran V, Jeyaram A (2007) Integrated water resource development plan for sustainable management of Mayurakshi watershed, India using remote sensing and GIS. Water Resour Manage 23(8):1581–1602

    Google Scholar 

  23. Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) (2018) A National tool for water measurement, management & improvement. CWMI Report, 2018

  24. CWC (2017) Reassessment of water availability in India using space inputs (volume II). Government of India (GoI), Central Water Commission, New Delhi, India.

  25. Das S (2015) Dr. Rajendra Singh: His tryst with water and peace. J Geol Soc India 85(5):521

  26. Duraiswami RA, Krishnamurthy V, Maskare B (2016) Artificial recharge in India as an effective institute water security intervention: studies in two select river basins. In: Conference GSI, pp 66–75

  27. Foster SSD, Chilton PJ (2003) Groundwater: the processes and global significance of aquifer degradation. Philos Trans Roy Soc Lond B Biol Sci 358(1440):1957–1972

    Google Scholar 

  28. Gachene CK, Nyawade SO, Karanja NN (2019) Soil and Water Conservation: An Overview. Zero hunger. Encyclopedia of the UN sustainable development goals. Springer, Cham

    Google Scholar 

  29. Garg NK, Hassan Q (2007) Alarming scarcity of water in India. Curr Sci 93:932–941

    Google Scholar 

  30. Gaur A, Amerasinghe P (2011) A river basin perspective of water resources and challenges. India Infrastructure Report

  31. Glendenning CJ, Van Ogtrop FF, Mishra AK, Vervoort RW (2012) Balancing watershed and local scale impacts of rain water harvesting in India—a review. Agric Water Manage 107:1–13

    Google Scholar 

  32. GOI (Government of India) (1999) Integrated water resources development. A plan for action. Report of the Commission for Integrated Water Resource Development Volume I. Ministry of Water Resources, New Delhi, India

  33. Government of India (2002) National water policy, Ministry of Water Resource, GoI, New Delhi, India

  34. Gupta S (2011) Demystifying “tradition”: the politics of rainwater harvesting in rural Rajasthan, India. Water Alternat 4(3):347–364

    Google Scholar 

  35. Hadda MS, Khera KL, Kukal SS (2000) Soil and water conservation practices and soil productivity in north-western sub-montaneous tract of India: a review. Indian J Soil Conserv 28(3):187–192

    Google Scholar 

  36. Hagmann J, Chuma E, Murwira K, Connolly M, Ficarelli P (2002) Success factors in integrated natural resource management R&D: lessons from practice. Conserv Ecol 5(2):29

    Google Scholar 

  37. Hanjra MA, Qureshi ME (2010) Global water crisis and future food security in an era of climate change. Food Policy 35(5):365–377

    Google Scholar 

  38. Hope R, Borgoyary M, Agarwal C (2008) Smallholder Preferences for Agri-environmental Change at the Bhoj Wetland, India. Dev Policy Rev 26(5):585–602

    Google Scholar 

  39. India, C. W. C., & Central Water Commission (2013) 2002. Water and related statistics

  40. IWMI (International Water Management Institute) (2000) World water supply and demand 1995 to 2025 (draft).

  41. Jayashree V (2017) Clearing the fog on water conservation.

  42. Kathpalia GN, Kapoor R (2002) Water policy and action plan for India 2020: An alternative. Alternative Future, Delhi, pp 1–33

    Google Scholar 

  43. Keller AA, Sakthivadivel R, Seckler DW (2000) Water scarcity and the role of storage in development, vol 39. IWMI

  44. Kumar SV, Bharat GK (2014) Perspectives on a water resource policy for India. The Energy and Resource Institute, India

  45. Kumar R, Singh NP, Singh RP (2003) Water resources in India: need for holistic development and cautious exploitation. Indian J Agric Econ 58(3):448–466

    Google Scholar 

  46. Kumari M, Singh J (2017) Water conservation: strategies and solutions. Int J Adv Res Rev 1(4):75–79

    Google Scholar 

  47. Kundzewicz ZW, Mata LJ, Arnell NW, Döll P, Jimenez B, Miller K, Shiklomanov I (2008) The implications of projected climate change for freshwater resources and their management. Hydrol Sci J 53(1):3–10

    Google Scholar 

  48. Manasi S, Umamani KS (2013) Water conservation in urban areas: a case study of rain water harvesting initiative in Bangalore city. knowledge systems of societies for adaptation and mitigation of impacts of climate change. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, pp 303–328

    Google Scholar 

  49. Misra AK, Pachouri A, Kaur A (2015) Watershed management structures and decision making frameworks. Water Resour Manage 29(13):4849–4861

  50. Mukherji A (2008) Spatio-temporal analysis of markets for groundwater irrigation services in India: 1976–1977 to 1997–1998. Hydrogeol J 16(6):1077–1087

    Google Scholar 

  51. Niti Aayog Composite Water Management Index 2.0 (CWMI). Retrieved vol 28(9), Posted: 23 June, 2020

  52. Nkonya E (2002) Soil conservation practices and non-agricultural land use in the south western highlands of Uganda. The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), 2033

  53. Pani A (2020) Linking agro - ecological infrastructure to cropping practices for sustainable agricultural growth: do policies and local level institutional participation matter? J Glob Res 6(2):72–80.

  54. Pani A, Mishra P (2019) Hapa irrigation for promoting sustainable agricultural intensification: experience from Bankura district of India. GeoJournal 86(1):1–24

    Google Scholar 

  55. Palanisami K, Meinzen-Dick R, Giordano M (2010) Climate change and water supplies: options for sustaining tank irrigation potential in India. Econ Polit Wkly 183–190

  56. Pender JL, Kerr JM (1998) Determinants of farmers’ indigenous soil and water conservation investments in semi-arid India. Agric Econ 19(1–2):113–125

    Google Scholar 

  57. Portal IW (2019) Meteorological datasets.

  58. Ramsey E, Berglund EZ, Goyal R (2017) The impact of demographic factors, beliefs, and social influences on residential water consumption and implications for non-price policies in Urban India. Water 9(11):844

    Google Scholar 

  59. Rao CH (2000) Declining demand for foodgrains in rural India: Causes and implications. Econ Polit Wkly 35(4):201–206

    Google Scholar 

  60. Ratna Reddy V, Gopinath Reddy M, Galab S, Soussan J, Springate-Baginski O (2004) Participatory watershed development in India: can it sustain rural livelihoods? Dev Change 35(2):297–326

  61. Retrieved from https:// MoRD asks states to focus on water conservation and harvesting in MGNREGA to help achieve Jal Jeevan Mission targets | India Water Portal on November, 2019

  62. Retrieved from March 2020

  63. Richey AS, Thomas BF, Lo MH, Reager JT, Famiglietti JS, Voss K, Rodell M (2015) Quantifying renewable groundwater stress with GRACE. Water Resour Res 51(7):5217–5238

  64. Robinson EJ (2016) Resource-dependent livelihoods and the natural resource base. Annu Rev Resour Econ 8:281–301

    Google Scholar 

  65. Rockström J, Karlberg L, Wani SP, Barron J, Hatibu N, Oweis T, Qiang Z (2010) Managing water in rainfed agriculture, the need for a paradigm shift. Agric Water Manage 97(4):543–550

    Google Scholar 

  66. Rosegrant MR, Ringler C, Sulser TB, Ewing M, Palazzo A, Zhu T, Batka M (2009) Agriculture and food security under global change: Prospects for 2025/2050. International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, DC, pp 145–178

    Google Scholar 

  67. Roy AD, Shah T (2002) Socio-ecology of groundwater irrigation in India. Intensive use of groundwater challenges and opportunities, pp 307–335

  68. Sanginga P (2010) Agricultural innovation: more crops per drop

  69. Sayeed KA, Yunus MM (2018) Rice prices and growth, and poverty reduction in Bangladesh. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome

  70. Schwab GO, Frevert RK, Edminster TW, Barnes KK (1982) Soil and water conservation engineering. Soil Sci 134(2):146

    Google Scholar 

  71. Scott CA, Shah T (2004) Groundwater overdraft reduction through agricultural energy policy: insights from India and Mexico. Int J Water Resour Dev 20(2):149–164

  72. Shah T (2009) Climate change and groundwater: India’s opportunities for mitigation and adaptation. Environ Res Lett 4(3):035005

    Google Scholar 

  73. Shah T, Singh OP, Mukherji A (2006) Some aspects of South Asia’s groundwater irrigation economy: analyses from a survey in India, Pakistan, Nepal Terai and Bangladesh. Hydrogeol J 14(3):286–309

    Google Scholar 

  74. Sharawat I, Dahiya R, Dahiya RP, Sreekrishnan TR, Kumari S (2019) Policy options for managing the water resources in rapidly expanding cities: a system dynamics approach. Sustain Water Resour Manage 5(3):1201–1215

    Google Scholar 

  75. Sharma N, Kanwar P (2009) Indigenous water conservation systems—a rich tradition of rural Himachal Pradesh. Indian J Tradition Knowl 8(4):510–513

    Google Scholar 

  76. Sinha, S., Sharma, B. R., & Scott, C. A. (2006). Understanding and managing the water-energy nexus: Moving beyond the energy debate. Groundwater research and management: Integrating science into management decisions, pp 242

  77. Sivakumar MV, Stefanski R (2010) Climate change in South Asia. Climate change and food security in South Asia. Springer, Dordrecht, pp 13–30

    Google Scholar 

  78. Sivanappan RK (2006) Rain water harvesting, conservation and management strategies for urban and rural sectors. In: National Seminar on Rainwater Harvesting and Water Management, vol 11(2) p 1

  79. Sreedevi PD, Sreekanth PD, Ahmed S, Reddy DV (2019) Evaluation of groundwater quality for irrigation in a semi-arid region of South India. Sustain Water Resour Manage 5(3):1043–1056

    Google Scholar 

  80. Turral H (1995) Devolution of management in public irrigation systems: cost shedding, empowerment and performance. Overseas Development Institute, London

    Google Scholar 

  81. Vogel RM, Lall U, Cai X, Rajagopalan B, Weiskel PK, Hooper RP, Matalas NC (2015) Hydrology: the interdisciplinary science of water. Water Resour Res 51(6):4409–4430

    Google Scholar 

  82. Ward FA, Pulido-Velazquez M (2008) Water conservation in irrigation can increase water use. Proc Natl Acad Sci 105(47):18215–18220

    Google Scholar 

  83. Zhang W, Guan X (2011) Practice and exploration on water right transfer in the Yellow River Basin and its development direction in the near Future. In: 2011 International Symposium on Water Resource and Environmental Protection, IEEE, vol 2, pp 1043–1046

  84. Zougmoré R, Ouattara K, Mando A, Ouattara B (2004) Interaction between nutrients and water and soil conservation techniques in runoff control and soil fertility management in Burkina Faso. Sci Change Planét Sécher 15(1):41–48

    Google Scholar 

Download references


We want to express our special thanks to Waterman of India, Rajendra Singh, a conservationist, and environmentalist for his outstanding and thought-provoking interactive lecture in Kshitij, IIT Kharagpur, 2018, which further motivated us in the drafting of the present paper. We thank the anonymous reviewers and the journal’s Editor-in-Chief for their valuable comments, which greatly improved the paper.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Amartya Pani.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

Authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Pani, A., Ghatak, I. & Mishra, P. Understanding the water conservation and management in India: an integrated study. Sustain. Water Resour. Manag. 7, 77 (2021).

Download citation


  • Agro-ecology
  • Water conservation
  • Management
  • Antiquity
  • Policy
  • Integrated study
  • Water efficiency
  • Democratic organizations
  • India