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Canal water service delivery best guarantee for sustainable groundwater use, says water resources specialist

06 June 2022

Dr IJsbrand H de Jong, of the World Bank, educated Gerald Lacey lecture attendees on global lessons to be learned from India’s ‘groundwater revolution'. 

Canal water service delivery best guarantee for sustainable groundwater use, says water resources specialist
Visual minutes of the Gerald Lacey Lecture, produced by Cohenbaum.

“The best guarantee for making groundwater use more sustainable is by providing better quality of canal water service delivery,” said IJsbrand H de Jong at the end of the 2022 Gerald Lacey lecture.

Mr de Jong, lead water resources specialist at the Word Bank, was presenting on how irrigation management in India has changed since Lacey was Principal of the University of Roorkee in India in the 1940s.

He believes that lessons can be learned from India’s approach and implemented globally.

India’s approach to groundwater

India is the largest groundwater user in the world – groundwater irrigation accounts for almost two-thirds of India’s irrigation water supply.

This is a significant change from the protective irrigation approach during Lacey’s era. Much of the irrigation in India originally designed as protective, is now used as productive irrigation for farmers at the top end of the system.

Both the water intensity of GDP and water scarcity are high in India. This water intensity is, according to Mr de Jong, associated with a desire to lock available water in inefficient irrigation to achieve long-term water security.

The groundwater revolution

In the lecture, Mr de Jong both reflected on the “groundwater revolution”, spoke about the benefits and challenges of groundwater irrigation and, importantly, discussed what engineers can do to improve service delivery.

Such proposed improvements and solutions, and the case studies highlighted to show them in action, were described by event chair and chair of the Irrigation Water Forum (IWF), Dr Ian Tod, as “very encouraging”.

He added: “For most of us involved in the sector, improving the performance of irrigation schemes is what we’ve been trying to do over the years and decades.”

Engineers and professionals operating in this space are encouraged to review the lecture and consider how some of the solutions proposed can apply to their own work.

The ICE lecture series

The Gerald Lacey lecture, a collaboration between the IWF and the ICE, commemorates Gerald Lacey’s contribution to irrigation development.

The next ICE lecture, a collaboration between ICE and InstRE, will focus on engineering in extreme environments.

The event will take place at the ICE HQ, One Great George Street, from 6pm on Monday 27 June 2022.

Find out more
  • Steph Fairbairn, Engineering Knowledge manager at ICE