On September 11, Hivre Bazar panchayat in Maharashtra's Ahmednagar district won the first National Water Award for community-led water conservation. popatrao pawar, sarpanch of the village, talks to supriya singh
On the village water budget:
After taking up watershed development works in the village, we realised that one of the three watersheds covering around 400 ha had very little groundwater retention capacity. Scanty rainfall during 2001-2003 highlighted the problem. Two watersheds managed to capture a lot of water, but the first watershed which comprised almost half the total watershed area of the village, fared poorly. We found a layer of basalt salt was constricting the soil's groundwater retention. We approached the district's groundwater department. Scientists of the department started measuring the water available to the village since 2004 and from this evolved the idea of a 'water budget'.
On how is it prepared:
We record the recharge in the watersheds along with the water level in wells through six observation wells and four rain gauges. Monthly readings help in calculating the amount of water available to the village over a year.
We found that with only 100 mm of rainfall in a year we can meet drinking water needs of the village, with 200 mm rainfall we could grow one kharif crop, with 300 mm rainfall both rabi and kharif crops and with 400 mm rainfall the village could have surplus water to cultivate vegetables in the dry months of May and June. This helped in deciding the cropping patterns.
On its benefits:
Drinking water for humans and animals gets the highest priority. Budgeting helps the village to be prepared for any eventuality. The types of crops to be sown are decided after groundwater budgeting is complete. Last year, 1.47 crore litres of water was surplus. The village utilised that in June this year for vegetable cultivation. The per capita income of the village has increased from Rs 832 per annum (prior to watershed development) to Rs 24,000 per annum. The groundwater level has increased from around 36 metres earlier to around 15 metres today.
On its sustainability
The panchayat has instituted a compulsory course on water literacy for school students from the primary level upwards. The gram panchayat is very strict in enforcing the norms of water management and no outsider is allowed to indulge in any activity in the village without the gram sabha's permission.
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