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The UPSCAPE project in India

Published on 17 March 2020

Sophie Sherriff, Postdoc Research Associate, spent time in India to research water use

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This year I visited India with the UPSCAPE project, a collaboration between six organisations in India and the UK.

We travelled to our partners at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore to reflect on what has been achieved since the project was initiated and agree upon our aims for the year to come.

A key part of this project is to understand the trends in water use and management throughout the Cauvery river basin.

This will improve our understanding of how to model water flows and to project future changes in water supply and demand which can be affected by land use, population, urbanisation and irrigation practices.

We travelled from Bangalore, which sits on the edge of the basin in Karnataka, to Tiruchirappalli in Tamil Nadu.

Then we headed towards Kumbakonam through the Cauvery delta before returning to Tiruchirappalli, a city of approximately one million people.

What was most noticeable was the decreasing amount of water as we moved from the upper to lower river basins. In the delta, the river was an empty sandy channel, meaning that people are increasingly dependent upon groundwater for drinking water, irrigation and industry.

Groundwater levels have been decreasing rapidly over recent decades suggesting that water use is greater than what is replenished during the monsoon season. As such water scarcity can occur throughout the majority of the basin. We want to better understand how water demand and supply will change in the future to support decision making in water resources management.

The final part of the trip was to talk to those with an interest in or responsibility for water resources management to understand the water resource issues, potential solutions and scientific knowledge gaps. This included government officials, academics and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in both Tiruchirappalli and Chennai which added to work previously done in Bangalore.

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UPSCAPE is a three-year project funded by the Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC) in the UK and the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) in India through the Newton-Bhabha initiative.

The collaborators include the University of Dundee (Prof John Rowan and Dr Sophie Sherriff), the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, the British Geological Survey, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment and ICRISAT Development Centre.

“This will improve our understanding of how to model water flows and to project future changes in water supply and demand which can be affected by land use, population, urbanisation and irrigation practices.”

Sophie Sherriff, Postdoc Research Associate

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