India Placeholder

Community water banks for drought risk resilience in Purulia

About the Implementing organization

Name: Rarhbhum Farmer's Federation

Country: India

Year of establishment: 2012

Type of organization: Community-based association or organization


Exponential demand for food has pushed farmers from subsistence to commercial agriculture and water demand grew gradually against highly variable supply. The intervention area in Purulia does not manage water as a commodity which is a shared asset at different levels of the irrigation system. This societal challenge has amalgamated with ecological water crisis owing to high run-off loss. The intervention banks on collected community waters as a commodity for lift irrigation using renewable energy, being sold against an estimate of opportunity cost to farmers. These water-banks recharge ground water; sustain horticultural vines on water surface and fisheries. Lowlanders can be bankers and Highlanders can be investors of the run-off or borrowers in times of need. While the bankers earn incentives accrued from alternative farming and service charges, the Highlanders pay user fees and interests for borrowing water rights of others and enjoy equitable access to water resources with guaranteed volume and quality. The target beneficiaries are marginal farmers residing within the watershed territory of the water bank, involved in collective farming and joint marketing. Water banking is an entrepreneurial innovation for leasing water resources between willing water-rights holders and willing-to-pay users to assure budgeted supply of quality water. Unlike others, this is a right based participatory conservation paradigm to promote sustainable intensification of ecosystem services.

Nature Element


Type of Action

Restoration / Sustainable use / Access and benefit sharing / Advocacy for land & water rights

Sustainable Development Element

Jobs and livelihoods / Food security / Water security / Disaster risk reduction / Renewable energy / Climate action

Related Sustainable Development Goal(s)


Environmental Impacts

The most important environmental impact has been the wise use of water resources through sustainable consumption and equitable harvesting. This has changed the climate risk to resilience and prevented desertification and land cover changes. It has also helped in conserving the agro-biodiversity as now it sustains the second crops, horticultural products and local aquatic biodiversity with the water-banks in place. Further, it has largely reduced emissions from agro-farming practices as since the diesel generators are no more used for unsustainable pumping of ground water. as spin-off effects, the system of water banking is preventing topsoil loss due to heavy run-off, reduction in 'heat-island' effects from the rugged terrains and increased green cover in the intervention area. The livestock management has become easier and resource recycling through integrated farming now assures better sustainability in the agrarian practices.

Sustainable Development Impacts

The intervention brought water security in Purulia through right-based entrepreneurial water conservation model and sustainable intensification of ecosystem services towards inclusive growth. In 5 years of implementation, 50 units of water-banks of average size 2.5 hectare are developed for sustaining climate adaptive farming practices in 1000 hectare drought prone areas. This supported entrepreneurial water partnership of 500 youth as ‘joint liability groups’ for watershed management. It has assured 7000 marginal farmers in securing income of USD 80 per month. This is 57.14% growth over 5 years. This has brought 15 rural villages within sustainable watershed conservation and management, financial inclusion and disaster preparedness for risk coverage. Furthering the impacts it has recommending right-based, wise-use operational framework for water security towards climate adaptive practices through rural entrepreneurship that has been accepted by the state for scaling up.


 In Purulia, 98% farming is rain-fed agriculture though 65% arable lands stay empty owing to water scarcity. A scoping study gives proximity of 47% exponential growth in merely three consecutive monsoons if there be water banking. Recent government schemes have initiated fiscal supports to marginal farmers in the area but quality and volume of water resources cannot be assured thus and failed to augment yield. Collective action and participatory planning for resource wise-use in the proposed water-banking model have augmented resilience wherein 92% of the inhabitants have shown concurrence within the small intervention area. Integrated watershed management and conservation perspectives based on basin ecology in defining watersheds are the strengths of the intervention that can now guarantee a scaling up in all drought districts of the state and in the whole agro-ecoregion spanning six more states of eastern India as well along with other states in western and southern India.


Upper riparian countries within Indian ecoregion like Nepal, Bhutan and Part of Myanmar and Pakistan has similar problems as in this case, where water-banks can be unique solutions. The socio-ecological perspectives and water behaviours are very similar for replicating this model in these countries. Otherwise in 70% areas of African states, the same model can be replicated easily if such water conservation and entrepreneurship can be developed.

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