Agriculture and Industrial Allocation and Use

Agricultural and Industrial water use
At present water for basic needs is being squeezed from both sides, by an increasing encroachment of that space by water for industry as well as agriculture. Public as well as private action is causing more and better quality water to be diverted to agriculture and industry leaving drinking water and sanitation under stress especially during the lean season. That even in most areas where watershed development has taken place, drinking water shortages are being felt is an indication of how de facto favour and unhindered application are squeezing water for basic needs. At present industry gets all the water it asks for and at very favourable prices. Similarly agricultural use, despite increasing use of drips, is still extremely inefficient and wasteful. There is a need felt therefore to develop water use protocols, both in terms of the amount and quality of water that the agriculture and industrial sectors use and return as well as conditions which they should fulfil when they are allocated water. In this effort taken up by the Forum the following objectives were defined.

1. To get a better understanding of the present agricultural and industrial water sourcing, access, use and return in India.
2. To identify prevalent and potential ‘good practices’ both in agriculture and industries and initiate a more informed engagement with actors sensitive to them from both sectors
3. To develop a set of protocols for agricultural and industrial water uses
4. To disseminate the findings and the protocols as widely as possible, try to build a broad consensus around them and work for their adoption by both policy makers and practitioners.

These objectives are to be fulfilled with the following activities

Geographic scope: Mahanadi River Basin

  • A desk review of the existing literature to identify critical insights, different perspectives and focus on the critical areas and questions that need study.
  • Collection of secondary and primary data that would include bio-physical, socio-economic and other data related to agricultural and industrial use (including water sourcing, access, use and return flows for both livelihood and commercial activities).
  • Documentation of ‘good practices’ both in the agriculture and industrials sectors, mainly in the form of case studies, would be taken up at an all-India level to identify what is `doable’ and what needs to be part of the protocols.
  • Setting up of stakeholder groups and organizing stakeholder consultations in the Mahanadi basin.
  • Development of different scenarios for water allocations to and use by both sectors in interaction with stakeholder groups that would feed into evolving a set of protocols for both sectors.
  • A small peer review committee of about five persons or so with expertise and standing and with innovative work to their credit from both agriculture and industry would be set up to guide the work on this theme.


1. Basin level report for Mahanadi basin on this theme
2. Compendium of case studies of good practices
3. One synthesized report addressing the issues related to this theme at the national level
4. Protocols in the form of policy briefs for agriculture and industrial water allocation and use
5. Abridged basin level report in regional language

The group in the course of its preliminary literature review, secondary data collection and discussions with regional stakeholders has picked two sites within the Mahanadi basin for detailed primary field research, validation of secondary data and further engagement with stakeholders. These sites have been picked because of the juxtaposition of large industries (coal thermal power, iron and steel and mining) and irrigated agriculture (predominantly rice) – both large users of water and both reliant on the same water source, therefore, perhaps likely to invite conflict. The first is the Hasdeo Bango  project, its ‘influence area’ – defined as the land extent over which lie the industries served by the project - and command area and the second the Hirakud project, its ‘influence area’ and command area.

The group has been compiling secondary data on each of these sites, and has organised five field visits in total, for purposes of validation of secondary data and sharing of information with regional stakeholders. While field validation can only be done for the chosen sites, at a secondary level, there will also be a Mahanadi Basin report compiled on Agriculture and Industry in the basin as a whole.

The datasets analysed include land use, irrigation (source-wise/project wise, district wise), cropped area (district wise), reservoir levels and releases of water from both projects (Hasdeo and Hirakud) on a weekly/monthly basis as available, allocations of water to industries and command areas, physical locations of industries.

Besides secondary and primary research in the Mahanadi the group is also conducting a literature review on the national and global norms of agricultural and industrial water use for the types of industries selected (coal thermal power, iron and steel and mining) and the major crops in the basin (rice). These exercises will lead to an understanding of the current efficiency of water use in the basins , the potential for improvements and challenges to better efficiency, both at the unit levels (field/industry) and at the macro levels (command areas/project level). There will be an effort made to understand inequities in the distribution/allocation of water as well.

The Agriculture Industry group will bring its findings together to build different future scenarios for water use, depending on the adoption of best practices. The group will also develop a set of policy, institutional, technological, recommendations which will then be disseminated and used in continuous engagement with stakeholders from the region.