Hydrological impacts of rainwater harvesting (RWH) in a case study catchment: The Arvari River, Rajasthan, India. Part 1: Field-scale impacts uri icon

abstract

  • Rainwater harvesting (RWH), the small-scale collection and storage of runoff to augment groundwater stores, has been seen as a solution to the deepening groundwater crisis in India. However, hydrological impacts of RWH in India are not well understood, particularly at the larger catchment-scale. A key element to grasping RWH impact involves understanding the generated recharge variability in time and space, which is the result of variability in rainfall-runoff and efficiency of RWH structures. Yet there are very few reported empirical studies of the impact of RWH. Catchment-scale impacts are best studied using a water balance model, which would require a basic level of field data and understanding of the variability. This study reports the results of a 2-year field study in the 476 km(2) semi-arid Arvari River catchment, where over 366 RWH structures have been built since 1985. Difficulties associated with working in semiarid regions include data scarcity. Potential recharge estimates from seven RWH storages, across three different types and in six landscape positions, were calculated using the water balance method. These estimates were compared with recharge estimates from monitored water levels in 29 dug wells using the water table fluctuation method. The average daily potential recharge from RWH structures varied between 12 and 52 mm/day, while estimated actual recharge reaching the groundwater ranged from 3 to 7 mm/day. The large difference between recharge estimates could be explained through soil storage, local groundwater mounding beneath structures and a large lateral transmissivity in the aquifer. Overall, approximately 7% of rainfall is recharged by RWH in the catchment, which was similar in the comparatively wet and dry years of the field analysis. There were key differences between RWH structures, due to engineering design and location. These results indicate that recharge from RWH affects the local groundwater table, but also has potential to move laterally and impact surrounding areas. However, the greatest weakness in such analysis is the lack of information available on aquifer characteristics, in addition to geology and soil type. (C) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

publication date

  • 2010
  • 2010
  • 2010