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Modelling water levels of northwestern India in response to improved irrigation use efficiency.

Shekhar, S. and Kumar, S. and Densmore, A.L. and van Dijk, W.M. and Sinha, R. and Kumar, M. and Joshi, S.K. and Rai, S.P. and Kumar, D. (2020) 'Modelling water levels of northwestern India in response to improved irrigation use efficiency.', Scientific reports, 10 . p. 13452.


The groundwater crisis in northwestern India is the result of over-exploitation of groundwater resources for irrigation. The Government of India has targeted a 20 percent improvement in irrigation groundwater use efficiency. In this perspective, and using a regional-scale calibrated and validated three-dimensional groundwater flow model, this article provides the first forecasts of water levels in the study area up to the year 2028, both with and without this improvement in use efficiency. Future water levels without any mitigation efforts are anticipated to decline by up to 2.8 m/year in some areas. A simulation with a 20 percent reduction in groundwater abstraction shows spatially varied aquifer responses. Tangible results are visible in a decade, and the water-level decline rates decrease by 36–67 percent in over-exploited areas. Although increasing irrigation use efficiency provides tangible benefits, an integrated approach to agricultural water management practice that incorporates use efficiency along with other measures like water-efficient cropping patterns and rainwater harvesting may yield better results in a shorter period.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit
Date accepted:29 July 2020
Date deposited:31 July 2020
Date of first online publication:10 August 2020
Date first made open access:19 August 2020

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