Principal Investigator:
Professor & Head, Department of Agricultural Economics, UAS, Hebbal, Bangalore

Junior Research Fellows:

Computer Operator:

The focus of the study is the economic estimation of the interactive effects of wells. This 'well interference' leading to well failure isdefined as a well that (i) fails or goes dry, or (ii) loses its yield, or (iii) requires deepening, because of interactive effects of pumping inneighboring wells or new wells coming in, but not because of (a) low rainfall or (b) technical deficiency in drilling, construction, pump size and so on. Further, any type of well failure, costs of negative externality, costs of groundwater scarcity and costs of coping mechanism in the sampled villages in (each of the dry agroclimatic zones of Karnataka state) is assumed to be due to well interference. Here, the sampled set of villages are those with the largest number of irrigation wells per million cubic meter of utilizable groundwater for irrigation, and the year for which data are obtained reflects the year of normal rainfall. These villages are called High well interference villages (HWIV). Another set of villages with the lowest number of wells per million cubic meter of utilizable groundwater for irrigation, are chosen in the same taluk, to keep the possible variations in agro-climatic factors to the minimum for better contrast. These are called Low well interference villages.

The farmers in the sampled village are chosen after mapping the irrigation wells using the participatory rural appraisal approach. This provides the location of pockets within the village where the well density is higher. Hence the sampling of taluks in each agroclimatic zone and of villages in the taluk relies on the criterion of the highest number of wells per MCM of groundwater. And the sampling of farmers within the chosen taluk and village(s)relies on the highest density of villages (considered through PRA mapping and transect walk).

With this sampling frame, the taluks Devanahalli (with 322 wells per million cubic meter of groundwater) in Eastern Dry Agroclimatic zone, Hukkeri (with 251 wells) in Northern transitional zone, Madhugiri (with 156 wells) in central dry zone, Kollegal (with 155 wells) in southern dry zone, Athani (with 154 wells) in northern dry zone, Humnabad (with 122 wells) in north eastern transitional zone and Afzalpur (with 70 wells) in north eastern dry zone rank high in the descending order of the magnitude of well interference, in Karnataka.



The objective of the grant was to consider the following hypotheses suggested (John Ambler, (Dec 4, 1991)).


The research indicated that dense spacing of wells is leading to interactive effects between wells only under some conditions. The type of irrigation well, crop pattern, aquifer conditions and supply of electricity largely determined the level of interactive effects. In the southern dry zone, the dense spacing of borewells certainly has lead to interactive effects, and has resulted in the drying of dug wells and dug cum borewells. In northern dry zone (Athani) for instance, as the vast majority of the wells are dug wells, supporting low water intensive food crops. Hence the interactive effects are not found. But in southern dry zone, the vast majority of wells are dug cum bore wells and bore wells supporting water intensive crops like paddy, turmeric and sugarcane. Here the interactive effects are apparent. In addition to dense spacing, the type of well, the horse power of the pump set, the crop pattern and the dependence of (different types of) irrigation wells on a unit of groundwater are crucial determinants of interactive effects.


Hydrogeologically, there is no relationship between depth of the irrigation well and the well yield. However, in practice farmers are increasing the depth of the irrigation wells. In Malur taluk of Eastren dry zone, the depth of the wells in villages with high well interference influenced by tank recharge, the depth of bore wells ranged from 218 feet to 239 feet in small farms, and from 228 feet to 326 feet on large farms. In low well interference villages, not influenced by the tank recharge, the depth ranged from 268 feet to 367 feet on small farms and from 331 feet to 381 feet on large farms. Thus, the groundwater recharge dampens the depth of the irrigation wells. As this study was conducted in a densely - well spaced area, the interwell distance between wells is within 600 feet.


Pricing electricity for lifting groundwater would not facilitatesustainable use of groundwater. Even if electricity to lift groundwater is priced, the cost of electricity used in the total cost of cultivation will be modest. The electricity cost to lift one acre inch of groundwater is estimated to be Rs. 20 per acre inch (Source: data from a coconut farm in Tiptur, which used 4367 KWHs to lift 104 acre inches of water in 1995-96) at the rate of 50 paise per KWH. Even considering the most water intensive crop of paddy which uses 50 acre inches per acre, and considering only the electricity cost, the total cost of electricity will be Rs. 1000. If the cost of cultivation of paddy without electricity cost is Rs 6000, an addition of Rs. 1000 forms around 14 percent. Hence, given the better relative prices of paddy (output) in relation to electricity (input), there are no compelling reasons to infer that electricity pricing will substantially influence groundwater use on farms. However, for reasons of fiscal probity and to generate revenues for providing good infrastructural facilities in rural electrification, it is essential to meter the electricity use and price it, progressively on slab basis (for instance up to 3000 KWHs - 50 paise per KWH, 3001 to 4000 KWHs, 75 paise per KWH, 4001 to 5000 KWH, 1 Rupee per KWH and so on), by educating farmers and other actors.


Results from Central Dry Zone indicated that in a high well interference aquifer influenced by the irrigation tank, the small farmers possessed only 27 percent of all working wells while large farmers possessed 73 percent of all working wells. The investment per functional well was Rs.1,66,066 for small farmers while it was Rs. 1,10,859 for large farmers. The negative externality per acre of gross irrigated area on small farms was Rs.17,861, while that on large farms was Rs. 3,071. The economic loss per acre of gross area irrigated on small farms in the tank command was Rs. 918, while that in non tank command was Rs. 5,814. Hence the tank command substantially reduced the economic losses of small farmers, though it did not totally wipe out the losses. Thus, emphasis should be on the cost of inequity borne by small farmers since it is largely the recharge efforts that will reduce the cost of irrigation and improve the economic status of small farmers. All these testify that those with access to capital are increasingly capturing groundwater.

In the Eastren Dry Zone, the cost per acre inch of groundwater was the lowest (Rs. 143) for the top 25 percent of the farmers who used 70 percent of total groundwater. The contribution of groundwater recharge to dampen the negative externality arising due to interactive effects of irrigation wells is apparent in hydrogeological situations where the number of irrigation wells per unit volume of groundwater is the highest. The net returns per acre of gross area irrigated can be increased by 44 percent due to desiltation efforts by overcoming the negative externality due to cumulative interference and by benefitting from groundwater recharge.

In Southern transitional zone, in Channagiri taluk, with 56 wells per million cubic meter of groundwater, the cost per acre inch of groundwater in high well interference ranged from Rs. 1700 to Rs. 5000 while the net returns per acre inch varied from Rs. -1,767 to Rs. 3,691. The recharge of groundwater through irrigation tank could reduce the irrigation cost by 50 percent on per acre basis.


Problems encountered

Why they occurred

How do I address them

1. Technical:

Valuation of interactive effects of irrigation wells








No study has attempted to empirically measure the interactive effects of wells. Hence contradictions in estimation are bound to be present till procedures  are standardized.






We have developed a methodology as presented in the first report and also with this report. In addition to presentations before experts, we have also sent articles to Standard journals for their comments on methodology. One article is already accepted in Artha Vijnana, from Gokhale Institute, Pune (already sent to the Ford Office, New Delhi)




Following are our process of evaluation and assessment of the grant.

(i) How the grant has helped the Institution ?

This grant (1994-98) revived the nostalgic linkages with the Ford Foundation, which was responsible for establishment of the Plant Protection discipline at UAS during 1966. Besides establishment of academic links with reputed institutions like ISRO, NABARD, Central Groundwater Board, Department of Minor Irrigation, Water Resources Development Organization, Dry Land Development Board, Institute for Social and Economic Change, Gokhale Institute for Politics and Economics, Madras Institute for Development Studies, the grant has richly supported the research base in the University with regard to research in groundwater irrigation economics.

At least 15 students doing their Masters degree in Agricultural Economics were richly benefitted by the guidance available through the Ford Foundation sponsored research project - by way of academic expertise developed in the field of natural resource and environmental economics in general and in the field of groundwater resource economics in particular, and by way of guest lectures arranged during the course of the project from experts like Prof MV Nadkarni, Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bangalore; Sri A Ravishankar, NCAP, New Delhi, Sri Vasudevamurthy, Premier Irrigation, Bangalore, Ms Liz Robinson, Stanford University, USA, the expertise on the personal computer system regarding the system of tabulation and analysis of data, and the elegance in academic presentations of results and in group discussions.

(ii) Human Resource Development

This project has enabled several students and scholars to richly benefit from the expertise as well as the infrastructural facilities:

  1. Sri B. Shivakumaraswamy, the first M.Sc student to benefit from the Ford Foundation sponsored project published his first article in Artha Vijnana, 1997, and is working in Krishi Vijnana Kendra sponsored by ICAR in Suttur, Mysore District.

  2. Dr M.S. Shyamasundar, the first Ph.D student to benefit from the Ford Foundation project was selected as Assistant Advisor, National Accreditation and Assessment Council of the University Grants Commission, GOI, Bangalore

  3. Sri KM Sathisha, the second M.Sc student is pursuing his Ph.D program in the Department of Agricultural Economics.

  4. Ms Sushma Adya, the third MSc student to benefit from the Ford Foundation project has been selected to receive the NORAD fellowship to pursue post graduate studies in Natural Resource Management in the Agricultural University of Norway, Oslo from August 1998.

  5. Mr G Basavaraj, the fourth MSc student is in the process of completion and is trying for a fellowship from the University of Wageningen to pursue his Ph.D in natural resource economics.

These students have been exposed to the concepts of natural resource economics and the techniques of analysis as applicable to groundwater irrigation in the hard rock areas. Dr. N Nagaraj, Associate Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics, who was associated with Dr MG Chandrakanth, the Principal Investigator, has been richly benefitted by his association with the Ford Foundation project by winning many laurels:

  1. Dr N Nagaraj bagged the coveted Jawaharlal Nehru Award for the best Ph.D dissertation from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research in 1995.

  2. The research article coauthored with Dr. MG Chandrakanth, the Principal Investigator, on the "Economics of low yielding irrigation wells in hard rock areas" won the best article award of the Indian Society of Agricultural Economics, Bombay for 1996.

  3. Dr Nagaraj has been selected to receive the Post doctoral fellowship by the French Government and is pursuing research in water resource economics at INRA, Paris, France at present (from Oct 1997 to Nov 1998).

  4. Dr Nagaraj has also been selected to receive the Fulbright Post Doctoral Fellowship from Dec 1998, to be at the Univ of Colorado, Fort collins, to pursue his research in water resource economics. The PI Dr MG Chandrakanth has played a major role in shaping the careers of the above half a dozen scholars in the Department with the help of the Ford Foundation grant.

  5. The infrastructural facilities of the project has helped launching of a journal in vernacular by name "Hittala Gida", by Sri TN Prakash, Assistant Professor, of the  Department of Agricultural Economics, UAS, Bangalore.

  6. The principal investigator M.G. Chandrakanth was invited by several organizations like (1) Madras School of Economics, to give guidance to their program in Environmental Economics, (2) Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bangalore, to give lecture in the field of equity issues in groundwater.

(iii) Whether the grant has served the purpose for which it was meant ?

The Foundation will be pleased to know that this grant provided a sea of opportunities for the Principal Investigator to meet the objectives of the proposal. The very fact that this project was attached to the Department of Agricultural Economics in the University has greatly benefitted the students of the Department as the PI was able to utilize the experience gained in the project in class room teaching and in post graduate research. This experience has also been useful in helping the students to write their dissertation, seminar reports and research articles. This way the project is having a cascading effect spilling over the Department's teaching and research endeavors. The positive externalities have been substantial and the Foundation's timely grant will be remembered with gratitude. The students have expressed their satisfaction in graduate classes as it was possible to arrange field visits on topical issues clubbing both the project activity and the students' interests.

(iv) What is your plan of action for the next year

This grant has enabled us to obtain several field insights and conceptual developments, which can conveniently be brought out in the form of a book. Though each of the five studies have been brought out as five different reports, it is still necessary to bring out one (text like) book for the benefit of researchers working on groundwater with complexities of hard rock areas. This could be one of the activities in addition to the objectives already mentioned in an earlier letter for the Phase II research.

(v) Under what conditions, different classes of farmers invest in resilience which generate positive externalities in groundwater?

  1. What classes of farmers are investing how much on measures which promote positive externalities from their existing groundwater source rather than investing in additional sources of groundwater (or on additional wells). For this question, we need to sample only those farmers who are managing with their existing groundwater and separate them from those farmers who have invested in additional groundwater well(s).

  2. Are the economic investments in proper pump maintenance, drip / sprinkler systems, crop patterns with reasonable use of groundwater, which generate positive externalities, crop specific, class specific, area specific ? (for instance, if most of the groundwater in a water scarce area is being used to raise food crops (paddy, wheat, minor millets), what are the opportunities for small and marginal farmers to realize positive externalities.

  3. Are the policies promoting positive externalities implicitly crop specific, class specific and area specific, even though not explicitly meant for widening the inequity ?

(vi) What are the inequities in benefit sharing from the positive externalities?

  1. Do large farmers derive greater chunk of benefits of positive externalities due to by water savings and do they extend their irrigated area, which the small farmers cannot do as due to limited farm size ?

  2. What are the socio-economic and bio-physical constraints limiting the small and marginal farmers to benefit from the positive externalities from groundwater management.

(vii) List of papers enclosed which emanated from grant support directly and indirectly:

  1. M.G. Chandrakanth and V. Arun, 1997, Externalities in Groundwater Irrigation in Hard Rock Areas, Indian Journal of Agricultural Economics, Vol 52, No.4, Oct - Dec 1997.

  2. B Shivakumaraswamy and MG Chandrakanth, 1997, Well interference and Aftermath: An economic analysis of well irrigation in hard rock areas of Karnataka, Artha Vijnana, Vol. 39, No.3, Sep 1997, pp. 341-359.

  3. M Gireesh, N Nagaraj and MG Chandrakanth, 1997, Rehabilitation of irrigation tanks in Eastern Zone of Karnataka - An economic analysis. Indian Journal of Agricultural Economics, Vol. 52, No.2, April-June 1997, pp. 231-243.

  4. N. Nagaraj and M.G. Chandrakanth, 1997, Intra and Inter-Generational equity effects of irrigation well failures - Farmers in hard rock areas of India, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 32, No. 13, March 29, 1997 (Review of Agriculture) pp. A 41-44.

  5. John M. Kerr, M.G. Chandrakanth and R.S. Deshpande, 1997, Managing Groundwater Development in Karnataka, in J.M. Kerr, D.K. Marothia, Katar Singh, C. Ramasamy and W.R. Bentley (Ed) Natural Resource Economics Theory and Application in India, Oxford & IBH Publishing Co. Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 1997, pp. 421-443.

  6. N. Nagaraj and M.G. Chandrakanth, Low yielding irrigation wells in peninsular India - An economic analysis, 1995, Indian Journal of Agricultural Economics, Vol. 50, No. 1, Jan-Mar 1995, pp. 48-58. (Won the Best Full Length Paper award for 1995, from Indian Society of Agricultural Economics, awarded at the Annual Conference of Indian society of Agricultural Economics, Peechi, Jan 1997).

  7. N. Nagaraj, M.G. Chandrakanth and Gurumurthy, Borewell failure in drought prone areas of Southern India: A case study, Indian Journal of Agricultural Economics, Vol. 49, No.1, Jan-Mar 1994, pp. 102-106.