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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2017-543
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Research article
13 Sep 2017
Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).
Proximate and underlying drivers of socio-hydrologic change in the upper Arkavathy watershed, India
Veena Srinivasan1, Gopal Penny2, Sharachchandra Lele1, Bejoy K. Thomas1, and Sally Thompson2 1Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, Royal Enclave, Sriramapura, Bengaluru, KA, India
2Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA
Abstract. Addressing water security in the developing world involves predicting water availability under unprecedented rates of population and economic growth. Yet the combination of rapid change, inadequate data and human modifications to watersheds poses a challenge, as researchers face a poorly constrained water resources prediction problem. This case study of the data-scarce, upper Arkavathy watershed, near the city of Bengaluru in southern India, attempts to systematically explain the observed disappearance of surface and groundwater in recent decades. The study asks three questions: 1) Can we quantify the change attributable to different drivers? 2) Can we anticipate change? 3) What policy lessons can be drawn? Field experiments, isotopic studies, borewell scans and sensors were deployed to understand hydrologic processes over five years. These were used in a historical reconstruction of the catchment over three decades that replicates the decline. The multi-scale model of the upper Arkavathy, quantifies the contributions of soil and water conservation measures, groundwater depletion and eucalyptus plantations to the decline in surface and groundwater resources. The model results indicate that the catchment hydrology cannot be reconstructed without explicitly including human feedbacks. The system is influenced by both endogenous drivers (social feedbacks to changes in water availability such as irrigation efficiency improvements, soil and water conservation measures and deeper borewells) and exogenous drivers (technological change, pro-development governance and economic forces due to urbanization, which provided access to capital and markets for high-value crops). The research suggests that in a system where productivity of the landscape is limited by water, economic drivers will always push for maximization of water abstraction and use. Unsustainability of resource use is inevitable, in the absence of credible controls on abstraction and use.

Citation: Srinivasan, V., Penny, G., Lele, S., Thomas, B. K., and Thompson, S.: Proximate and underlying drivers of socio-hydrologic change in the upper Arkavathy watershed, India, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss., https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2017-543, in review, 2017.
Veena Srinivasan et al.
Veena Srinivasan et al.
Veena Srinivasan et al.

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This case study of the data-scarce, upper Arkavathy watershed, near the city of Bengaluru in southern India, attempts to systematically explain the observed disappearance of surface and groundwater in recent decades using a multi-scale model. The results indicate that the disappearance can only be explained by including human drivers – both social feedbacks to changes in water availability and external drivers such as technology change and urbanization.
This case study of the data-scarce, upper Arkavathy watershed, near the city of Bengaluru in...
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