Carl Daamen interview: developing river basin models and water sharing policy in the Upper Godavari

An interview with Carl Daamen, a principal ecologist at eWater. Carl discusses eWater’s working with Government of Maharashtra Water Resources Department aimed at building their capacity in the use of water management in the Upper Godavari basin

Background to the water management crisis in the Upper Godvari river basin

What the Government of Maharashtra desired from a water partnership?

The challenges of moving from catchment to basin-scale management?

The importance of a long-term relationship between the Government of Maharashtra and eWater?

The role of river-basin modelling in negotiating optimal water sharing in the Upper Godavari?

Moving toward long-term adaptive planning for Maharashtra’s water resources

The partnership between the governments of Maharashtra and New South Wales

The Godavari river basin is the second-largest in India and is a key area for irrigated agriculture in Maharashtra. As in much of India, the river system is dominated by kharif rains, or the monsoon season, between July and October. Relative to Australian climatic conditions, these rains are reasonably reliable but in comparison to recent history in Maharashtra, kharif rainfall is becoming more variable and this is causing distress in the catchment.

Recently, water scarcity in the Upper Godavari basin has placed increased pressure on water sharing between the upstream water users, whose reservoirs are close to full and downstream water users, whose reservoirs are close to empty. This resulted in conflict. Around this time, the Government of Maharashtra established a sister-state relationship through a memorandum of understanding with the New South Wales government. New South Wales and Australia overall is in a unique position to help the Government of Maharashtra to draw on our experience with water reform processes. eWater is working with NSW to progress the:

  • development of a better understanding of the water resource base,
  • implementation of robust basin-scale planning,
  • governance reforms, supported by innovative policy and legal frameworks,
  • strengthening of institutions and professional capacity development.

For the Water Resources Department in Maharashtra, the challenge is to make a change in their approach towards a science-based decision support system, underpinned by hydrological modelling. The application of river basin models supports the Australian water governance approach and is the primary component of the current project with the Government of Maharashtra. The Murray Darling Basin Authority and the New South Wales government have both made substantial investments in the construction and application of river basin models — particularly within the Murray Darling Basin. These models are a key component of their governance framework and we expect these models will also be useful in Maharashtra — to improve understanding of the basin water balance and to provide a testbed for new water management options.

eWater has supported the establishment of long-term modelling capability in Maharashtra using Source, Australia’s National Hydrological Modelling Platform, as a river basin modelling tool. eWater has helped to navigate data collection, administration and model building capacities, as the Government of Maharashtra’s IWRM modelling team has been established and were on hand to lead model conceptualisation, calibration and scenario studies using the modelling platform. These models are now being used to support the development of water sharing policy for upstream and downstream reservoirs.

The outcomes of these studies were presented to senior water policy advisors and irrigation development corporation representatives at a one-week workshop in December 2017, in Mumbai. The workshop discussed the proposed water entitlements framework and how to enhance basin management policies and governance. A key discussion topic at the workshop was how river basin models can be used to inform the development of new water management rules and policies. eWater then hosted a visit to Australia by senior Government of Maharashtra officials to enhance understanding of the practical application of science-to-policy frameworks in the Murray Darling Basin. This spanned federal, state and regional authorities and included a visit to an irrigated farm and a long conversation with the farmer.

The Government of Maharashtra will continue to use river basin modelling to test water management options and facilitate discussion between different stakeholder groups in the Upper Godavari Basin.

Left to Right: 1. Meryl McKerrow, Partnerships Manager, eWater. 2. Mr V.M. Kulkarni, Member (Engineering), Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority, 3. Amit Patjoshi, KPMG, Mumbai 4. Mr.R.B. Shukla, Deputy Secretary and Superintending Engineer, Water Resources Department, Govt of Maharashtra, Mumbai 5. Dr Carl Daamen, Principal Hydrologist, eWater, 6. Mr K.P. Bakshi, Chairman, Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority, 7. Mr I.S. Chahal, Principal Secretary (Water Resources), Water Resources Department, 8. Karina Redpath, Senior Hydrologist, eWater, 9. Mr Avinash Surve, Executive Director, Vidarbha Irrigation, Development Corporation, Nagpur. 10. Mr Prasad Narvekar, Superintending Engineer, Gosikhurd Lift Irrigation Project Division, Bhandara.

Big picture study visit: parallels between the Murray Darling and Godavari basins

Australia is recognised internationally for having developed a strong system of water and river basin governance over many years. The Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) and New South Wales (NSW) state water management agencies are a key example of the application of these governance approaches. In Maharashtra, these responsibilities are held by the Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority (MWRRA) and other state agencies. Water governance in south-east Australia has direct relevance to water and irrigation modernisation and reforms being undertaken in Maharashtra, including measures being developed and applied by the MWRRA.

Since 2014, a project developed under the memorandum of understanding between the governments of Maharashtra and New South Wales has helped Maharashtra take steps towards developing a science-to-policy river basin modelling framework using the Source model; evaluate water management scenarios, and facilitate the implementation of the Maharashtrian State Water Policy.

In February 2018, key senior members of the Government of Maharashtra joined eWater on a week-long fact-finding mission to investigate the practical aspects of Murray Darling Basin plan implementation. The delegates had the opportunity interact will all levels of the Australian water governance framework, from federal agencies (DFAT, MDBA, Bureau of Meteorology), state authorities (NSW Office of Water), regional water organisations (Goulburn-Murray Water), as well as a private irrigation company and individual farmers. It was a great opportunity to form partnerships and plan future opportunities for practical projects and knowledge exchange.

Through meetings and field visits, a variety of perspectives on water policy development, modelling for river basin management, water sharing and irrigation system automation, canal control, and irrigation management on farms were explored.

Goulburn-Murray Water field tour to observe Rubicon water management hardware

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