Traditional Methods of Groundwater Abstraction and Recharge along the Windward Side of the Foothills of the Western Ghats of India

Authored by: Darren Crook , Sudhir Tripathi , Richard Jones

Underground Aqueducts Handbook

Print publication date:  November  2016
Online publication date:  November  2016

Print ISBN: 9781498748308
eBook ISBN: 9781315368566
Adobe ISBN:


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The foothills of the Western Ghats are subject to the annual southwest monsoon, a period when the region receives the majority of its total rainfall for the year. The timing of the monsoon rains in Asia are linked to July sea-level pressure (mbar) in the equatorial Indian Ocean, the Pacific (El Niño Southern Oscillation; ENSO), wind direction, and cooling of the Arabian Sea due to upwelling (Murari Lal et al. 2001; Gadgil et al. 2003; Gupta et al. 2003). It is an important component of the global climate, and has a significant role in the socioeconomic life of people of the Indian subcontinent. The southwest monsoon period is crucial for recharging man-made tanks and cisterns in the region and for the natural recharge of groundwaters. The key to farmers when planning for irrigation and drinking water needs is the date of onset of this monsoon and the variability in the pattern of the monsoon. Current understanding of the monsoon is that under current intergovernmental panel on climate change and providing regional climates for impact studies climate change scenarios it is likely to become less predictable and more variable (Figure 24.1). The providing regional climates for impact studies scenarios have the notable advantage of using an regional climate model that produces a more realistic representation of the spatial patterns of summer monsoon rainfall such as the maximum along the windward side of the Western Ghats (Rupa-Kumar et al. 2006). Model simulations under scenarios of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations and sulfate aerosols indicate marked increase in both rainfall and temperature toward the end of the twenty-first century in India. West central India shows maximum expected increase in rainfall with extremes in maximum and minimum temperatures expected to increase into the future, but the night temperatures are increasing faster than the day temperatures. Extreme precipitation shows substantial increases over a large area, particularly over the west coast of India and west central India (Rupa-Kumar et al. 2006). If these prove to be the case, it could mean that the farmers are faced with more rainfall at certain times of the year, but greater water stress at other times of the year. This view is borne out by the projection made by Lal et al. (2001) that during winter, India may experience between 5% and 25% decline in rainfall with the decline in winter-time rainfall over India likely to be significant and potentially leading to droughts during the dry summer months. To this respect, groundwaters will continue to be crucial if drinking water is to be made available to the populace, particularly in marginal areas like the foothills of the Western Ghats. Thus, it is crucial to better understand the use of underground aqueducts and other water harvesting techniques in this part of India.

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