Project description

This project tackles the dual challenges of floods, droughts and groundwater depletion in some of the major trouble-spots of the Ganges River Basin. ‘Underground Taming of Floods for Irrigation’ (UTFI) involves targeted recharging of excess wet season flows in aquifers to protect lives and assets in downstream urban areas, boost agricultural productivity, improve livelihoods and promote resilience to climate shocks at the river basin scale. UTFI enables productive resource use in upstream areas by pumping the floodwater out for supplemental and dry season.

With the frequency and intensity of floods and droughts predicted to intensify in the near future (signs already visible), UTFI represents a new management and mitigation approach that has the capacity to reduce vulnerability and risks. The novel aspects of the approach include the strategic operation of recharge structures and the creation of linkages between communities in urban centres and those in rural areas upstream. Whilst the technical components of UTFI are not necessarily new, the integrated approach and the proposed mode of operation is. To our knowledge this has yet to be put into mainstream practice at scale anywhere in the world. Although firmly grounded in South Asia, there are opportunities to extend the research into other regions in future.

The project aims to demonstrate how it can reduce flood hazards and offset the unsustainable water use that prevails. In addition, access to reliable water supplies will lead to increased production and opportunities to intensify and diversify agriculture, boosting livelihood opportunities for the landless and women. Downstream flood-affected communities will also benefit. UTFI will serve towards building more climate-resilient agriculture and offer new models for Climate-Smart Villages. As such, the potential benefits for food and nutritional security are enormous.

The ’value proposition’ in this research revolves around transferring investments from traditional management approaches into more innovative approaches. Under existing programs, large funds are spent each year on relief and restoration efforts for flood victims; and providing subsidies for groundwater extraction during the non-rainy season without creating permanent assets and tackling the root causes of the problem. This project presents an alternative model of investments with the twin benefits of converting disasters into opportunities.


Outputs of the research would include a detailed proof of concept with the opportunities for upscaling clearly defined through technical guidelines, business case development to provide governments and other investors the evidence-base needed for enabling larger-scale rollout.

Some project outputs:


Further Information

For further information, please contact Project Leader, Paul Pavelic (IWMI) at