Over the last 35 years, a team of traditional water engineers has successfully revived seven river basins, replenished 2.5 million wells, and provided thousands of people with reliable access to water in the Alwar region of Rajasthan. Hundreds of traditionally engineered landscape water capture features have been implemented, which capture and store Monsoon rainwater from ephemeral flow paths that would otherwise flow into large rivers further downstream. This stored water is then available to the river basins during the non-monsoon drier period that lasts for around 80% of the year. The features have been purposefully built in areas of relatively high permeability with vertically fractured geology above groundwater reservoirs. The cumulative effect of these techniques has been dramatic and brought many benefits including more reliable drinking water supplies from wells, increased crop yields, improved ecosystems and an overall improvement in living standards of communities.
Some initial work has been undertaken to better understand the science behind the transformation, and to further appreciate the benefits of the approaches to drought resilience and landscape and ecosystem health. However, a scientifically rigorous and detailed study is needed to understand the function and performance of the water storage features, how they have transformed the region through time, and how they have increased resilience. In particular more information is needed on the scale of interventions that are needed in order to make a meaningful and tangible positive change, and a greater understanding on the timescales for implementation and recovery is needed in the context of climate change.
There is an opportunity to learn from this experience (and other similar experiences), and then assess the transferability of the findings and principles to the UK context. Currently Natural Flood Management (NFM) in the UK does offer some intangible / unknown drought management benefit. However, NFM it is predominantly designed for flood risk mitigation (using surface water hydraulic modelling) meaning that its potential for drought management is not being appreciated or realised. The need for NBS approaches to drought management (combined with NFM) are likely to be increasingly required in the future due to the impacts of climate change, combined with continued pressure on water supply from aquifers.
This project is part of the ONE Planet DTP. Find out more here: View Website