Over-Dependence on Tubewell Irrigation Draining Out Groundwater Aquifers in the Food Bowl of India

Harmanjit S. Dhadli, Sukhpreet Singh, and Salwinder S. Dhaliwal


Tubewell/canal irrigation, water resource management, water-table (WT)


Due to increased population pressure and climate change, availability of good quality water will be of utmost importance in the future globally. The Punjab state of India, also known as food bowl of the nation, has been contributing about 60% of wheat and 30 % of rice to the national food stocks, which has been possible due to the availability of assured irrigation along with high yielding cultivars and chemical inputs. With the increase in the number of tube wells from 0.19 million in 1970-71 to 1.28 million during 2008-09, tubewell irrigation expanded to 70% area of the net sown area in the state. This study encompasses the effect of development of tubewell and canal irrigation and changes in cropping patterns on the behavior of water-table (WT) in the state. During the past four decades, with the intensification in tube well irrigation and decreased availability of canal water coupled with escalation in water demand due to shift in cropping patterns, WT declined in most parts of the state. Due to the over exploitation of groundwater by tubewells and decreased canal water supply, average WT depth and rate of fall of WT were maximum in the north-eastern parts of the state. In the south-western districts of the state, higher availability of canal water coupled with lower abstraction of groundwater could be the cause of water logging.

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