Evaporation Ponds or Recharge Structures ? the Role of Check Dams in Arkavathy River Basin, India

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Kirubaharan Jeremiah, Veena Srinivasan and Apoorva R, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, Bangalore, India
“Watershed development” has been the dominant paradigm for water management in India for the last two decades. Current spending on watershed development programmes rivals spending on large dams. In practice, watershed development involves a range of soil and water conservation measures including building check dams, gully plugs, contour bunds etc. Despite their dominance in water management paradigms, relatively little empirical data exists on these structures. Importantly, even though the benefits of individual watershed structures are recognized, the cumulative impact of building hundreds of such structures on hydrologic partitioning of a watershed remains unknown.

We investigated the role of check dams in two small milli-watersheds in the Arkavathy River basin in South India. We conducted a comprehensive census of all check dams in the two milli-watersheds with a total area of 26 sq km. 40 check dams (representing a density of 1.35/sq km of watershed area) were geotagged, photographed, measured and their condition was recorded.

We then selected twelve check dams and monitored the water stored using capacitance sensors. We also set up Automatic Weather Stations in each watershed. Inflows, evaporation and infiltration were calculated at each site to evaluate how check dams alter hydrologic partitioning in the watershed as a whole.