The Government of India (GoI) constituted a common tribunal on 10 April 1969 to solve the river water utilization disputes about the river basin states of Godavari and Krishna rivers under the provisions of Interstate River Water Disputes Act – 1956.[1][2] The common tribunal was headed by Sri RS Bachawat as its chairman with Sri DM Bhandari and Sri DM Sen as its members. Godavari river basin spreads through the states of Telangana (TS), Maharashtra (MR), Orissa, old Madhya Pradesh {later bifurcated into present Madhya Pradesh (MP) and Chhattisgarh}, Karnataka (K) and Andhra Pradesh (AP).[3][4] Krishna river basin states Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh insisted on the quicker verdict as it had become more expedient for the construction of irrigation projects in Krishna basin. So the of Godavari Water Disputes Tribunal (GWDT) could not proceed till the Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal final verdict was submitted to GoI on 27 May 1976.[5]

Before the states reorganization in the year 1956, planning commission on 27 July 1951 conducted a meeting of the then Godavari river basin states Bombay state, Hyderabad state, Madras state and Madhya Pradesh state excluding Orissa state to discuss and finalize the Godavari river water utilization among the riparian states. The memorandum of agreement (page 105 of draft GWDT report) was prepared and later ratified by the participant states. This agreement says that the water allocations shall be reviewed after 25 years (i.e. 27 July 1976). Since the old agreement is about to lapse shortly, all five states of Godavari river basin (including Orissa) signed a new agreement on 19 December 1975 relating to the sanction and clearance of the projects in accordance with certain bilateral agreements entered between them after the GWDT formation.

This agreement together with its annexures was filed before the GWDT on 12 July 1976.[6] This good gesture expressing voluntary cooperation on the part of the disputing states made further job of GWDT less difficult. The states of Orissa, Chhattisgarh could not achieve concurrence with Andhra Pradesh on Polavaram dam FRL/ MWL, spill way design capacity and flood gates operation schedule during flood season. GWDT has adjudicated this issue and its decision is given in clause-VI of its final order (page 25 of final GWDT report). The rest of the final order deals with definition of ‘water uses’ (clauses –I & II), ‘water use measurement’ (clause –III A & B), ‘water use and losses accounting in a water year from the storage in a reservoir’ (clause –III C), ‘export of Godavari waters to other river basins’ (clause -IV), ‘agreements related to the Godavari river’ (clause -V), ‘Godavari waters’ (clause –VIII b) etc. to interpret and implement the various agreements between the states. The final report of the GWDT was furnished to GoI on 7 July 1980 for Government approval and notification. GoI accepted the GWDT verdict and made it binding on the river basin states in the year 1980. The agreements arrived between the riparian states at sub basin level, are vetted by all the riparian states of the entire Godavari basin and no state can back out of the total tribunal award. The tribunal award is applicable in totality to all riparian states and it is not possible by not cooperating construction of an agreed/identified interstate project on any ground by a riparian state.

Sriram Sagar Project, an idling project for lack of water inflows in most of the years
Sriram Sagar Project, an idling project for lack of water inflows in most of the years
Nizam Sagar, another idling project for lack of water inflows in most of the years
Nizam Sagar, another idling project for lack of water inflows in most of the years

Water allocations

The water used under the existing / completed major, medium & minor irrigation projects up to 6/10/1975 is protected in all the states. The water use sanctioned / cleared up to 6/10/1975 for the major, medium & minor irrigation projects is also protected in all the states. The river basin is mainly bifurcated into following broad areas to share river water:

u/s of Pochampadu dam site

This river basin area is further subdivided into following areas:

MR can use 22 tmc up to Nizamsagar dam site on Manjira River (Page 90 of original GWDT)

AP can draw 4 tmc for drinking water of Hyderabad city. 58 TMC is agreed and protected water use under the existing Nizamsagar project. (Page 90 of original GWDT)

One tmc water lifting from the Manjira river is allowed by Karnataka. (Page 133 of original GWDT)

d/s of Pochampadu dam site

MR, AP and old MP states can use 300 tmc each and Orissa can use 200 tmc for new projects / uses.[10]

This river catchment area is further subdivided into following areas (not complete list):

Chhattisgarh state can use all the water of Sabri (Kolab) tributary up to the point where Sabari river forms common boundary between Orissa and Chhattisgarh states. Additionally, Chhattisgarh can use all the available water u/s of the listed projects (annexure F of GWDT report) located in its territory for its existing, ongoing and new projects. Further Chhattisgarh can use not exceeding 18 tmc by withdrawals from the Sabari main river up to Sileru river confluence point for its existing, ongoing and new projects.

Interstate projects

These agreements also permit to construct various interstate projects such as Pochampadu project between MR and AP, Lower Penganga project between MR and AP, Pranhita barrages between MR and AP, Lendi project between MR and AP, Bhopalpatnam Hydro electric project between MR and Chhattisgarh, Inchampalli project between MR, Chhattisgarh and AP, Lower Sileru irrigation scheme between AP and Orissa, Polavaram Project between Orissa, Chhattisgarh and AP, future projects across Sabari river between Orissa and Chhattisgarh, Singoor project between Karnataka and AP, Storage projects located in MP for water use in MR, etc.

Scientific approach

When rain falls on the land mass, soil absorbs a part of rain water and remaining part of the rain water joins the nearby stream by flowing on the surface of soil. Some of the water absorbed by the soil gets evaporated from the soil, some part of the remaining water in the soil emerges into the surface stream as seepage flows and rest of water collects in the underground aquifer as ground water. This process also takes place when the land is irrigated by surface water. The surface run off and the subsurface seepage out of the total rainfall is the available water in the river basin after deducting the natural evaporation loss from the naturally formed water bodies (both perennial and non perennial) in the river basin in a water year. The water thus available is called primary water supplies / flows in a river.

If there is no ground water extraction, over a period of time all ground water aquifers get saturated fully and further ground water percolation to the aquifers would join the river streams as enhanced seepage flows / base flows. Thus any underground water extraction / use from the river basin aquifers reduce the primary water flows in the river basin.

When river water is used in surface irrigation, the part of water joining the stream is termed as ‘return flows’ and the part of water joining the aquifer is termed as ‘seepage loss’ or manmade ground water charging. The sum of primary water supplies and return (recycled) flows in a river basin is the total water available for use. The total available water for use in a river basin is almost one-and-half times the primary water supplies if net ground water use is also accounted.[11] If ground water use is intensive or close to ground water mining, the return flows would be during heavy rains period only which are below 10% of primary water supplies in the river basin. There would be negligible base flows into the river streams during the remaining period and good chance of river turning in to losing stream due to unsustainable ground water exploitation.

Both evaporation loss and seepage loss take place in manmade water works such as canals, reservoirs, ponds, tanks, percolation ponds / meadows, sewage treatment plants, water harvesting / ground water recharging works / contour bunding of fields, etc. Many times land is used for enhanced ground water charging from rain water by constructing contour bunds to the fields for better soil moisture and salt's leaching from the top soil. All these works are either manmade reservoirs or manmade other works as explained in Clause III B & C of final order of GWDT.

Water reservoir creates space to store water for various requirements such as domestic, municipal, irrigation, industrial, production of power, navigation, carryover storage in future year's use, pisciculture (fish rearing), wild life protection and recreation purposes . Clause II declares each of above purpose is water use along with the evaporation loss from the associated storage. The sum of all storages (without repetition) associated with all water uses is the total storage of all manmade reservoirs and other works. The loss of water by seepage is due to natural cause/ phenomenon from the manmade reservoirs and other manmade works.

Clause III A defines how the water use is quantified / measured for domestic, municipal, irrigation, industrial, production of power and diversions outside the Godavari river basin area. Clause III B defines how a water use from the manmade reservoirs and other works are measured for remaining uses (navigation, pisciculture, wild life protection and recreation purposes) which are not covered under Clause III A.

Every manmade reservoir's water is invariably used for pisciculture, wild life survival, navigation, recreation, etc. additionally though main water use is for irrigation or domestic or industrial requirements.[12] So the actual seepage loss from the manmade reservoirs and other works are to be accounted under water uses for pisciculture, wild life protection, navigation, recreational purposes as per Clause III B.

Clause I declares that ground water use shall not be reckoned as river water use. In Godavari basin the ground water use exceeds surface / river water use in irrigation, etc. So the actual return flows available would not exceed 10% of primary water supply of the river. Thus as an exception in case of irrigation use, Clause II B aptly says that the extent of return flows shall not be deducted from the water lifted / diverted for the irrigation use (clause III A i). Also, it implies that return flows deduction is applicable for water uses under domestic & municipal water supply (clause III A iii) and industrial purpose (clause III A iv) at the rate of 80% and 97.5% respectively.

Clause III C very clearly says seepage and evaporation water losses to the extent of actual depletion from a manmade reservoir shall be accounted under water use in each water year whether stored water is put to use or not. The water diverted from a reservoir in a water year shall be considered as water use in that water year only. Mere creation of water storage in a reservoir in a water year is not reckoned as water use in that water year. Thus GWDT allows creation of carry over storage in reservoirs for future years use when surplus river water is available in a water year to meet water shortfall in the river in future water deficit years up to the permitted water uses. This clause implies that the water use permits are from average annual water availability in the river.

Clause VIII b defines ‘Godavari waters’ as water of the main stream of the Godavari river, all its tributaries and all other streams contributing water directly or indirectly to the Godavari river. Clause III C implies that any temporary or permanent manmade bund constructed across any stream / point in Godavari river basin / system to obstruct and impound the natural flow of Godavari waters shall be considered as manmade reservoir whatever may be its storage capacity. It also very clearly says seepage and evaporation water losses to the extent of actual depletion from a manmade reservoir in a water year shall be accounted under water use in that water year.

Available water for use

From the above elaboration of clauses I to IV of GWDT final order, the total available water in a water year from the Godavari river is sum of

Total water use

From the above elaboration of clauses I to IV of GWDT final order, the total water use in a water year from the Godavari river shall be measured as sum of following

There is surplus water available in the river in 75% of water years after meeting the total water use allocations by GWDT, present and future ground water use, for the moderate environmental flow requirements and salt export or alkalinity control in Godavari river.[14]

The manner water drawl and losses are considered under water uses and measured in a scientific way as incorporated in the GWDT final order by the jury chaired by Sri RS Bachawat and its technical advisers is highly commendable when the present understanding in India of a river basin's development phases and its implications[15][16][17] are esoteric even after three decades from the notification of GWDT verdict.

Ongoing controversies

To resolve the disputes between Telangana and AP states, the Godavari River Management Board (GRMB) is notified on 15 July 2021 by the central govt as an autonomous body and its project wise functions are identified.[18]

Kaleswaram\Pranahita Chevella lift irrigation scheme

Nizamsagar project and Singoor reservoir.

Polavaram project

Balimela project and Jalaput project[19]

See also


  1. ^ "Godavari Water Disputes Tribunal final report, (page 52)" (PDF). 1980. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 January 2011. Retrieved 21 March 2014.
  2. ^ "The interstate river water disputes act, 1956 - As modified up to 6th August 2002" (PDF). Government of India. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 March 2012. Retrieved 21 March 2012.
  3. ^ "Godavari river basin map"
  4. ^ "Godavari basin status report" (PDF). Government of India. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 21 March 2015.
  5. ^ "Refer page 8, Volume 1 of GWDT Award" (PDF). Government of India. Retrieved 21 March 2015.
  6. ^ "GWDT Award" (PDF). Government of India. Retrieved 21 March 2015.
  7. ^ a b "Supreme Court verdict on Babhali project dispute". February 2013. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
  8. ^ "Barrages built on Marathwada rivers hold 11.3 TMC water". Retrieved 10 December 2019.
  9. ^ "Centre sets up panel on Babli". Retrieved 19 October 2013.
  10. ^ "Dams, Barrages, Weirs, Anicuts & Lifts in Godavari river basin". Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  11. ^ IWMI Research Report 83. "Spatial variation in water supply and demand across river basins of India" (PDF). Retrieved 23 August 2012.
  12. ^ Central Water Commission, GoI. "Real time integrated operation of reservoirs (sections 2.2.5, page 8)" (PDF). Retrieved 23 January 2013.
  13. ^ "Wetlands atlas of India". Retrieved 25 August 2012.
  14. ^ V. Smakhtin; M. Anputhas. "An assessment of environmental flow requirements of Indian river basins" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 May 2014. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
  15. ^ J. Keller; A. Keller; G. Davids. "River basin development phases and implications of closure". Retrieved 25 September 2020.
  16. ^ David Seckler. "The new era of water resources management - From 'dry' to 'wet' water savings" (PDF). Retrieved 25 January 2013.
  17. ^ Andrew Keller; Jack Keller; David Seckler. "Integrated Water Resource Systems: Theory and Policy Implications" (PDF). Retrieved 5 January 2014.
  18. ^ "Functions of Krishna River Management Board and Godavari River Management Board" (PDF). Retrieved 16 July 2021.
  19. ^ Central Water Commission, GoI. "1962 Agreements - pages 239 to 242" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 November 2011. Retrieved 23 January 2013.