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Mountain Waters Crucial for Irrigated Agriculture in the Indus, Less so in the Ganges and Brahmaputra Basins
11 Oct 2018

Key Message: 130 million farmers in the downstream plains of the Indus and the north-western part of the Ganges basin depend on water originating from glacier and snow melt from the mountains.

In terms of crop production, 9% of the ~46 million metric tonnes of wheat that is harvested each year in the Indus Basin can be attributed to water from glacier and snow melt. Similarly, 15% of the annual 19 million metric tonnes rice production, 28% of the 4 million metric tonnes cotton and 17% of the 53 million metric tonnes of sugarcane can be attributed to this meltwater. In the Ganges Basin, 3% of cotton production and 7% of sugarcane production can be attributed to meltwater.

Discharge from glacier and snow melt and groundwater provide a reliable supply of irrigation water during parts of the growing season when other water sources are scarce. Any changes in the future availability of meltwater or further groundwater depletion will therefore impact agriculture.

Understanding the links between sources of water demand and sources of water supply is important for developing appropriate adaptation measures. In HI-AWARE we developed a water resources model to help understand risks and to evaluate solutions to manage the water budget.