Surface & Ground Water Resources- 4 Notes | EduRev

Engineering Hydrology

Civil Engineering (CE) : Surface & Ground Water Resources- 4 Notes | EduRev

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Some statistical information about the surface water resources of India, grouped by major river basin units, have been summarised as under. The inflow has been collected from the inistry of Water Resources, Government of India web-site.

 River basin unitLocationDraining into Catchment area km2Average annual runoff (km3Utilizable surface water (km3
























Meghna -Ganges

 -Brahmaputra(2) -Barak(3)

West flowing river

from Tadri

to Kanyakumari 


West flowing

rivers from Tapi

to Tadri


Indus Mahanadi


(5) Minor rivers of the northeast BrahmaniBaitarani East flowing rivers between Mahanadi & Pennar Cauvery

(4) East flowing rivers between Kanyakumari and Pennar West flowing rivers of Kutsh and Saurashtra 

Tapi Subernarekha Mahi Pennar Sabarmati Rajasthan and inland basin 






coast Central

CentralWest coast

Central Northwest Centraleast Centralwest Extreme northeast Northeast Centraleast coast South Southeast coast

Northwest coast Centralwest Northeast 

Northwest Southeast Northwest northwest 


Arabian sea 
Bay of Bengal Arabian sea Bay of Bengal Pakistan Bay of Bengal Arabian sea Myanmar and Bangladesh Bay of Bengal Bay of Bengal 
Bay of Bengal Bay of Bengal

Arabian sea Arabian sea Bay of Bengal Arabian sea Bay of Bengal Arabian sea -  

 861 452 
56 177 
312 812 
55 940 
258 948 
141 589 
98 796 
51 822 
86 643 
81 155 
100 139 
321 851 
65 145 
29 196 
34 842 
55 213 
21 674





    Total3 227 1211 869.35690.3 

 * Earlier estimates reproduced from Central Water Commission (1988). 


  1. Areas given are those in India territory.
  2. The potential indicated for the Brahmaputra is the average annual flow at Jogighopa situated 85 km upstream of the India-Bangladesh border.  The area drained by the tributaries such as the Champamati, Gaurang, Sankosh, Torsa, Jaldhaka and Tista joining the Brahmaputra downstream of Jogighopa is not accounted for in this assessment.
  3. The potential for the Barak and others was determined on the basis of the average annual flow at Badarpurghat (catchment area: 25 070 km2) given in a Brahmaputra Board report on the Barak sub-basin.
  4. The assessment for Cauvery was made by the Cauvery Fact Finding Committee in 1972 based on 38 years’ flow data at Lower Anicut on Coleroon.  An area of nearly 8 000 km2 in the delta is not accounted for in this assessment.
  5. The potential of the Narmada basin was determined on the basis of catchment area proportion from the potential assessed at Garudeshwar (catchment area: 89 345 km2) as given in the report on Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Decision (1978).  


Portion of the precipitation falling on land surface which does not flow out as runoff gets stored as either as surface water bodies like Lakes, Reservoirs and Wetlands or as sub-surface water body, usually called Ground water. 

Ground water storage is the water infiltrating through the soil cover of a land surface and traveling further to reach the huge body of water underground.  As  mentioned earlier, the amount of ground water storage is much greater than that of lakes and rivers.  However, it is not possible to extract the entire groundwater by practicable means. It is interesting to note that the groundwater also is in a state of continuous movement – flowing from regions of higher potential to lower. The rate of movement, however, is exceptionally small compared to the surface water movement. 

The following definitions may be useful: 

Lakes: Large, naturally occurring inland body of water

Reservoirs:  Artificial or natural inland body of water used to store water to meet various demands.

Wet Lands: Natural or artificial areas of shallow water or saturated soils that contain or could support water–loving plants.


Evapotranspiration is actually the combination of two terms – evaporation and transpiration.  The first of these, that is, evaporation is the process of liquid converting into vapour, through wind action and solar radiation and returning to the atmosphere.  Evaporation is the cause of loss of water from open bodies of water, such as lakes, rivers, the oceans and the land surface.  It is interesting to note that ocean evaporation provides approximately 90 percent of the earth’s precipitation.  However, living near an ocean does not necessarily imply more rainfall as can be noted from the great difference in the amount of rain received between the east and west coasts of India.

Transpiration is the process by which water molecules leaves the body of a living plant and escapes to the atmosphere. The water is drawn up by the plant root system and part of that is lost through the tissues of plant leaf (through the stomata). In areas of abundant rainfall, transpiration is fairly constant with variations occurring primarily in the length of each plants growing season.  However, transpiration in dry areas varies greatly with the root depth.

Evapotranspiration, therefore, includes all evaporation from water and land surfaces, as well as transpiration from plants. 

Water resources potential 

Surface water potential: 

The average annual surface water flows in India has been estimated as 1869 cubic km. This is the utilizable surface water potential in India. But the amount of water that can be actually put to beneficial use is much less due to severe limitations posed by Physiography, topography, inter-state issues and the present state of technology to harness water resources economically. The recent estimates made by the Central Water Commission, indicate that the water resources is utilizable through construction of structures is about 690 cubic km (about 36% of the total). One reason for this vast difference is that not only does the whole rainfall occur in about four months a year but the spatial and temporal distribution of rainfall is too uneven due to which the annual average has very little significance for all practical purposes.

Monsoon rain is the main source of fresh water with 76% of the rainfall occurring between June and September under the influence of the southwest monsoon. The average annual precipitation in volumetric terms is 4000 cubic km. The average annual surface flow out of this is 1869 cubic km, the rest being lost in infiltration and evaporation.

Ground water potential:

The potential of dynamic or rechargeable ground water resources of our country has been estimated by the Central Ground Water Board to be about 432 cubic km. 

Ground water recharge is principally governed by the intensity of rainfall as also the soil and aquifer conditions. This is a dynamic resource and is replenished every year from natural precipitation, seepage from surface water bodies and conveyance systems return flow from irrigation water, etc.

The highlighted terms are defined or explained as under:

Utilizable surface water potential: This is the amount of water that can be purpose fully used, without any wastage to the sea, if water storage and conveyance structures like dams, barrages, canals, etc. are suitably built at requisite sites.

Central Water Commission: Central Water Commission is an attached office of Ministry of Water Resources with Head Quarters at New Delhi. It is a premier technical organization in the country in the field of water resources since 1945.

The commission is charged with the general responsibility of initiating, coordinating and furthering, in consultation with the State Governments concerned, schemes for control, conservation and utilization of water resources throughout the country, for purpose of flood control, irrigation, navigation, drinking water supply and water power development.

Central Ground Water Board: It is responsible for carrying out nation-wide surveys and assessment of groundwater resources and guiding the states appropriately in scientific and technical matters relating to groundwater. The Central Ground Water Board has generated valuable scientific and technical data through regional hydro geological surveys, groundwater exploration, resource and water quality monitoring and research and development. It assists the States in developing broad policy guidelines for development and management of groundwater resources including their conservation, augmentation and protection from pollution, regulation of extraction and conjunctive use of surface water and ground water resources. The Central Ground Water Board organizes Mass Awareness Programmes to create awareness on various aspects of groundwater investigation, exploration, development and management.

Ground water recharge: Some of the water that precipitates, flows on ground surface or seeps through soil first, then flows laterally and some continues to percolate deeper into the soil. This body of water will eventually reach a saturated zone and replenish or recharge groundwater supply. In other words, the recuperation of groundwater is called the groundwater recharge which is done to increase the groundwater table elevation. This can be done by many artificial techniques, say, by constructing a detention dam called a water spreading dam or a dike, to store the flood waters and allow for subsequent seepage of water into the soil, so as to increase the groundwater table. It can also be done by the method of rainwater harvesting in small scale, even at individual houses. The all India figure for groundwater recharge volume is 418.5 cubic km and the per capita annual volume of groundwater recharge is 412.9 cubic m per person. 


Land and water resources of India 

The two main sources of water in India are rainfall and the snowmelt of glaciers in the Himalayas.  Although reliable data on snow cover in India are not available, it is estimated that some 5000 glaciers cover about 43000 km2 in the Himalayas with a total volume of locked water estimated at 3870 km3.  considering that about 10000 km2 of the Himalayan glacier is located within India, the total water yield from snowmelt contributing to the river runoff in India may be of the order of 200 km3/year.  Although snow and glaciers are poor producers of fresh water, they are good distributors as they yield at the time of need, in the hot season.

The total surface flow, including regenerating flow from ground water and the flow from neighbouring countries is estimated at 1869 km3/year, of which only 690 km3 are considered as utilizable in view of the constraints of the present technology for water storage and inter – state issues.  A significant part (647.2 km3/year) of these estimated water resources comes from neighbouring countries; 210.2 km3/year from Nepal, 347 km3/year from China and 90 km3/year from Bhutan.  An important part of the surface water resources leaves the country before it reaches the sea: 20 km3/year to Myanmar, 181.37 km3/year to Pakistan and 1105.6 km3/year to Bangladesh (“Irrigation in Aisa in Figures”, Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations, Rome, 1999;). For further information, one may also check the web-site “Earth Trends”.

The land and water resources of India may be summarized as follows.

Geographical area                                                                329 million


Natural runoff (Surface water and ground water)                  1869 cubic 


Estimated utilizable surface water potential                           690 cubic 


Ground water resources                                                       432 cubic     


Available ground water resource for irrigation                        361 cubic 


Net utilizable ground water resource for irrigation                  325 cubic 


International indicators for comparing water resources potential 

Some of the definitions used to quantify and compare water resource potential internationally are as follows: 

  1. Internal Renewable Water Resources (IRWR): Internal Renewable Water Resources are the surface water produced internally, i.e., within a country. It is that part of the water resources generated from endogenous precipitation. It is the sum of the surface runoff and groundwater recharge occurring inside the countries' borders. Care is taken strictly to avoid double counting of their common part. The IRWR figures are the only water resources figures that can be added up for regional assessment and they are being used for this purpose.
  2. Surface water produced internally: Total surface water produced internally includes the average annual flow of rivers generated from endogenous precipitation (precipitation occurring within a country's borders). It is the amount of water produced within the boundary of a country, due to precipitation. Natural incoming flow originating from outside a country’s borders is not included in the total.
  3. Groundwater recharge: The recuperation of groundwater is called the groundwater recharge. This is requisite to increase the groundwater table elevation. This can be done by many artificial techniques, say, by constructing a detention dam called a water spreading dam or a dike, to store the flood waters and allow for subsequent seepage of water into the soil, so as to increase the groundwater table. It can also be done by the method of rainwater harvesting in small scale, even at individual houses. The groundwater recharge volume is 418.5 cubic km and the per capita annual volume of groundwater recharge is 412.9 cubic m per person.
  4. Overlap: It is the amount of water quantity, coinciding between the surface water produced internally and the ground water produced internally within a country, in the calculation of the Total Internal Renewable Water Resources of the country. Hence, Overlap = Total IRWR- (Surface water produced internally + ground water produced internally). The overlap for Indian water resources is 380 cubic km.
  5. Total internal Renewable Water Resources: The Total Internal Renewable Water Resources are the sum of IRWR and incoming flow originating outside the countries' borders. The total renewable water resources of India are 1260.5 cubic km.
  6. Per capita Internal Renewable Water Resources: The Per capita annual average of Internal Renewable Water Resources is the amount of average IRWR, per capita, per annum. For India, the Per capita Internal Renewable Water Resources are 1243.6 cubic m.
  7. Net renewable water resources: The total natural renewable water resources of India are estimated at 1907.8 cubic km per annum, whereas the total actual renewable water resources of India are 1896.7 cubic km.
  8. Per capita natural water resources: The present per capita availability of natural water, per annum is 1820 cubic m, which is likely to fall to 1341 cubic m, by 2025.
  9. Annual water withdrawal: The total amount of water withdrawn from the water resources of the country is termed the annual water withdrawal. In India, it amounts 500000 to million cubic m.
  10. Per capita annual water withdrawal: It is the amount of water withdrawn from the water resources of the country, for various purposes. The per capita annual total water withdrawal in India is 592 cubic m per person. 

Development of water resources

Due to its multiple benefits and the problems created by its excesses, shortages and quality deterioration, water as a resource requires special attention. Requirement of technological/engineering intervention for development of water resources to meet the varied requirements of man or the human demand for water, which are also unevenly distributed, is hence essential.

The development of water resources, though a necessity, is now pertinent to be made sustainable. The concept of sustainable development implies that development meets the needs of the present life, without compromising on the ability of the future generation to meet their own needs. This is all the more important for a resource like water. Sustainable development would ensure minimum adverse impacts on the quality of air, water and terrestrial environment. The long term impacts of global climatic change on various components of hydrologic cycle are also important.

India has sizeable resources of water and a large cultivable land but also a large and growing population to feed. Erratic distribution of rainfall in time and space leads to conditions of floods and droughts which may sometimes occur in the same region in the same year. India has about 16% of the world population as compared to only 4% of the average annual runoff in the rivers.

With the present population of more than 1000 million, the per capita water availability comes to about 1170 m3 per person per year. Here, the average does not reflect the large disparities from region to region in different parts of the country. Against this background, the problems relating to water resources development and management have been receiving critical attention of the Government of India. The country has prepared and adopted a comprehensive National Water Policy in the year 1987, revised in 2002 with a view to have a systematic and scientific development of it water resources. This has been dealt with in Lesson 1.3, “Policies for water resources development”.

Some of the salient features of the National Water Policy (2002) are as follows:

  • Since the distribution of water is spatially uneven, for water scarce areas, local technologies like rain water harvesting in the domestic or community level has to be implemented. 
  • Technology for/Artificial recharge of water has also to be bettered.
  • Desalination methods may be considered for water supply to coastal towns. 

Present water utilization in India

Irrigation constitutes the main use of water and is thus focal issue in water resources development. As of now, irrigation use is 84 percent of total water use. This is much higher than the world’s average, which is about 65 percent. For advanced nations, the figure is much lower. For example, the irrigation use of water in USA is around 33 percent. In India, therefore, the remaining 16 percent of the total water use accounts for Rural domestic and livestock use, Municipal domestic and public use, Thermal-electric power plants and other industrial uses.  The term irrigation is defined as the artificial method of applying water to crops. Irrigation increases crop yield and the amount of land that can be productively farmed, stabilizes productivity, facilitates a greater diversity of crops, increases farm income and employment, helps alleviate poverty and contributes to regional development.  

Need for future development of water resources

The population of India has been estimated to stabilize by about 2050 A.D. By that time, the present population of about 1000 million has been projected to be about 1800 million (considering the low, medium and high estimates of 1349 million 1640 million and 1980 million respectively). The present food grain availability of around 525 grams per capita per day is also presumed to rise to about 650 grams, considering better socio-economic lifestyle (which is much less than the present figures of 980 grams and 2850 grams per capita per day for China and U.S.A., respectively). Thus, the annual food grain requirement for India is estimated to be about 430 MT. Since the present food grain production is just sufficient for the present population, it is imperative that additional area needs to be brought under cultivation. This has been estimated to be 130 Mha for food crop alone and 160 Mha for all crops to meet the demands of the country by 2050 A.D.

Along with the inevitable need to raise food production, substantial thrust should be directed towards water requirement for domestic use. The national agenda for governance aims to ensure provision of potable water supply to every individual in about five years time. The National Water Policy (2002) has accorded topmost water allocation priority to drinking water. Hence, a lot of technological intervention has to be made in order to implement the decision. But this does not mean that unlimited funds would be allocated for the drinking water sector. Only 20% of urban demand is meant for consumptive use . A major concern will therefore be the treatment of urban domestic effluents.  

Major industrial thrust to steer the economy is only a matter of time. By 2050, India expects to be a major industrial power in the world. Industry needs water fresh or recycled. Processing industries depend on abundance of water. It is estimated that 64 cubic km of water will be needed by 2050 A.D. to sustain the industries. Thermal power generation needs water including a small part that is consumptive. Taking into account the electric power scenario in 2050 A.D., energy related requirement (evaporation and consumptive use) is estimated at 150 cubic km.


Consumptive use: Consumptive use is the amount of water lost in evapotranspiration from vegetation and its surrounding land to the atmosphere, inclusive of the water used by the plants for building their tissues and to carry on with their metabolic processes. Evapo-transpiration is the total water lost to the atmosphere from the vegetative cover on the land, along with the water lost from the surrounding water body or land mass.

Sustainable water utilisation 

The quality of water is being increasingly threatened by pollutant load, which is on the rise as a consequence of rising population, urbanization, industrialization, increased use of agricultural chemicals, etc. Both the surface and ground water have gradually increased in contamination level. Technological intervention in the form of providing sewerage system for all urban conglomerates, low cost sanitation system for all rural households, water treatment plants for all industries emanating polluted water, etc. has to be made. Contamination of ground water due to over-exploitation has also emerged as a serious problem. It is difficult to restore ground water quality once the aquifer is contaminated. Ground water contamination occurs due to human interference and also natural factors . To promote human health, there is urgent need to prevent contamination of ground water and also promote and develop cost-effective techniques for purifying contaminated ground water for use in rural areas like solar stills.

In summary, the development of water resources potential should be such that in doing so there should not be any degradation in the quality or quantity of the resources available at present. Thus the development should be sustainable for future.

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