Wakal River Basin Project

AQA GCSE Geography > Resource Management >  Wakal River Basin Project

Wakal River Basin Project

Rajasthan, a region in north-west India, is the poorest and driest part of the country and is covered mainly by the Thar Desert. It experiences extreme temperatures, reaching up to 53°C in the summer, while the annual rainfall is very low, with less than 250 mm falling mainly between June and September. There is very little surface water as rain quickly infiltrates the land or evaporates.

What are the issues with water supply?

Water supply presents considerable challenges due to historical mismanagement. Excessive irrigation has resulted in waterlogging and salinisation, while over-abstraction from unregulated pumps has depleted aquifers, causing many wells to run dry. There has been little coordinated water management as villages and individual households control access to wells.

The Wakal River Basin Project

Addressing these challenges, the Wakal River Basin Project, situated in Rajasthan’s southern part, has received funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) as part of the Global Water for Sustainability Program from 2004 to 2014. This initiative has focused on enhancing water security by engaging local communities in the management process. Its twofold aim is to increase water supply and storage with locally adapted solutions and to raise community awareness regarding sustainable water management.

Increasing Water Supply

The project has promoted rainwater harvesting to boost water supply, which has benefited villages and families alike.

The strategies used include:

  • Constructing taankas, which are underground storage tanks that gather water from rooftops

    A villager collects water from a taanka in the That Desert

    A villager collects water from a taanka in the That Desert – source

  • Johads, small earth dams that capture rainwater, have increased the water table by up to 6m, enabling rivers that previously dried post-monsoon to flow year-round.
  • Pats, or irrigation canals, have been developed to channel water to fields.


  • Geographical Context

    Rajasthan, in north-west India, is characterised by its arid Thar Desert landscape, experiencing extreme temperatures (up to 53°C) and low annual rainfall (less than 250 mm), predominantly between June and September.

  • Water Supply Challenges

    Historical mismanagement has led to water supply issues, including waterlogging and salinisation due to excessive irrigation and aquifer depletion from unregulated pumping, causing wells to run dry.

  • The Wakal River Basin Project

    Funded by the USAID from 2004 to 2014, this project in southern Rajasthan aims to enhance water security. It involves local communities in management, focusing on increasing water supply and storage and promoting sustainable water management awareness.

  • Solutions for Water Supply

    The project advocates rainwater harvesting, benefiting villages and families. This includes building taankas (underground tanks for rooftop water collection) and johads (small earth dams increasing the water table and enabling year-round river flow).

  • Infrastructure Development

    The project has also developed pats (irrigation canals) to direct water to fields, further supporting agricultural activities and addressing water scarcity issues.


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