In a bid to prevent depletion of the water table during agriculture, the governments of Israel and India, along with Pune-based BAIF Development and Research Foundation (BDRF) and other educational and research institutes, have started a project that will allow farmers to use water and energy more efficiently.
According to experts, subsidised electricity in the agricultural sector has often led to over utilisation of groundwater as farmers avoid metering their pumps. Over extraction of groundwater and subsequent depletion of the water table are often blamed on this unregulated use of electricity, and farmers often have no means to measure their water usage.
Implemented at the Karanjkhop village in Koregaon taluka of Satara district, the 24-month-old project seeks to develop a model that can be replicated elsewhere, sources said.
RC Kote, senior thematic programme executive, BDRF, said that subsidised electricity and low efficiency of water pumps have led to farmers extracting more water than they require for their crops. “The maximum efficiency of pumps in India is between 18 per cent and 25 per cent. Farmers have no way of knowing when and how much to irrigate and so, all measurements are taken by instinct,” he said.
State agricultural universities offer recommendations about crop-wise water requirement, but translating it on ground has its own set of challenges, experts said.
The project aims to replace inefficient pumps with energy-efficient pumps and sensors to measure actual water usage.
Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) – a government of India initiative – will be replacing the inefficient pumps. Micro-irrigation at the field level will ensure efficient use of water by farmers, sources said.
Pump sets will have sensors to measure the water and energy used by farmers, Kote said. “We have plans to display this through a dashboard installed at the gram panchayat level, which will give a correct picture of usage,” he said.
“We plan to come up with numbers which will guide farmers on the amount of water and energy required to grow a certain crop. This model will not only help farmers maximise the efficiency of their water resources but also stop over-utilisation of groundwater,” he said.
While the fieldwork for the project has hit a roadblock due to the coronavirus pandemic, Kote is confident that the project will be completed soon.