Too much, too less, too bad? – Adapting to climate change impacts on water quantity and quality in the drylands of Maharashtra, India.

Project period was 2012-2014. The project was funded by The Research Council of Norway under the programmes INDNOR and NORKLIMP.


Maharashtra is with around 112 million people (Census of India, 2011) the second most populous state in India. Over half of its population lives in rural areas, facing problems related to water, mainly water scarcity and water pollution. More than 30 % of the state falls under the rain shadow area. The drought prone areas are affected by low and inadequate rainfall, long dry spells and erratic distribution of rainfall. The proportion of irrigated area in Maharashtra is only around 16% (national average of 38%), the rest is rainfed cultivation.

This makes agriculture vulnerable. Changes in water availability along with increase in temperature could have profound effect on the productivity of water-intensive crops such as rice and sugarcane. Swiss-Re (2010) estimated that a 1-in-25 years drought may affect up to 30 million people, among them 15 million small and marginal farmers, which livelihoods are dependent on agriculture. Besides rainfall and surface water, groundwater is also an important source for drinking water and irrigation water supply.

Today a lot of groundwater sources in large parts of the drylands of Maharashtra are over-exploited and the hydro-geological conditions are disadvantageous for recharge (Das, 2006; Foster et al, 2007). Cities and villages, industry and farmers, and the environment compete for the same water, water conflicts are becoming endemic at all levels, states the World Bank in a Report (2005).

Additional to water scarcity and the problems of water allocation, the region faces also problems with drinking water quality. Chemical pollution of groundwater is mainly due to salinity, fluoride and nitrate, bacteriological pollution in rural as well as in urban areas is mainly due to inadequate sanitation (Das, 2006). Even though waterborne diseases as cholera or diarrhoea causes less death today than in the 1990s, the number of yearly infected people is still high. A one-year longitudinal study of the bacteriological quality of rural water supplies in Maharashtra (wells, tanks, community standpost, handpumps, percolation lakes, etc.) revealed that nearly 50% of all taken samples were polluted (Tambe et al 2008). Studies on microbiological pollution of groundwater and surface water in the city of Pune, detected faecal coliform bacteria in river water as well as in bore-wells, with higher concentrations in the monsoon season (Bahador et al. 2004, 2005).

Population growth and urbanization are further increasing the problems of water scarcity and insufficient water quality in urban areas (Patwardhan et al, 2003; Rode, 2009). In rural areas additional growth of cash crops requiring a high water consumption as e.g. sugar cane and fruits aggravate the water problems (Das, 2006). The assignment of responsibilities for water supply and sanitation between different administrative institutions as e.g. in Maharashtra (Planning Commission, 2003) might also cause problems.

The main objective of “Too-India” was to study the impacts of climate change on the hydrological system in the drylands of the Indian province Maharashtra with respect to water availability and quality, assess the accompanying socio-economic consequences and propose technical and non-technical adaptation solutions.


  • explore how climate events and water quality are linked in the case study areas
  • predict future water availability and quality under moderate and extreme climate scenarios and compare with current and future water demand (quantity and quality)
  • assess socio-economic impacts and their possible aggravation by society inherent vulnerabilities and socio-geographic trends
  • study water allocation processes between urban and rural areas considering institutional aspects
  • develop useful information and planning tools for water allocation (GIS,decision support system)
  • foster a good cooperation between the collaborating Indian and Norwegian partners
Last updated 07.12.2017