News from the Columbia Climate School

Public water means water savings

Sheetal Sekhri speaks at the Columbia Water Center
Sheetal Sekhri speaks at the Columbia Water Center

On February 12, Columbia Water Center staff had the opportunity to hear a presentation from Sheetal Sekhri, an Assistant Professor at the University of Virginia Department of Economics, on ‘The Impact of Public Groundwater Provision Schemes on Water Tables: Evidence from Rural India’.

Staff engaged her in a spirited discussion of the results of her study, which used village-level data to examine the affect of a government sponsored water program on water table depletion  in eight districts of Uttar Pradesh, in northern India.  (Please see her paper on the subject for specifics)

Prof. Sekhri compared extensive local data in participating and not-participating villages before the public water scheme was introduced, and seven years after it initiated.

Basically, Prof. Sekhri’s study found that the water table of the villages taking part in the  project fell less than in nearby comparable villages where the public water provision service was not available.

•    Marginal farmers, who would not be able to build their own wells at all, were able to access water and improve agricultural output.
•    Small to moderate farmers who chose to utilize the project’s water, used less water than similar farmers who had built their own private wells instead.
•    Large farmers, who had greater access to economic resources, continued to construct private wells.
•    The net result was to slow, though not stop, the rate of groundwater depletion in the participating communities.

The discussion was very relevant to the Columbia Water Center’s work with farmers in other parts of India, and contributes to the multi-disciplinary process of achieving sustainable water management and economic development in water-poor rural areas.

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