Watershed development programmes in India typically don't address water resources management or rural water supply needs. However, they can have significant impacts upon the availability of water resources available for rural water supply. Watershed development projects can increase the availability of groundwater at a local scale, and this may benefit village water supplies. However, they can also lead to increased irrigation water use through improved incomes, and access to credit for new borewells and pumps. Currently the separation of watershed development and rural water supply (and irrigation) results in several missed opportunities. Watershed development projects could perhaps provide some of the elements required for successful local water management to address competition of scarce resources between irrigation water users and domestic water needs, such as effective local institutions and natural resource management rules. Without improvements in rural water supply, where access to water is one of the crucial factors in the livelihoods of poor people (affecting health and productive activities dependent upon a water source from livestock keeping to tea stalls), watershed development projects cannot expect to significantly improve the livelihoods of poor people.
The collaborative workshop on 'Water Supply & Sanitation and Watershed Development: positive and negative interactions' explored these issues as part of the on-going Water, Households and Rural Livelihoods Project (WHIRL) project. This project is focused on the middle ground between watershed management and rural water supply, and brings together a number of South African and Indian organisations with interests in water services, land and water management and rural development. Through reviews, and action research at village level and with organisations at national, state/ province and district level, this project will make available research findings to promote appropriate integartion of rural water supply within watershed development projects.
The workshop brought together over 50 specialists through a series of field visits, meetings and seminars. Using a novel decision-support methodology, Bayesian networks, an initial attempt was made to synthesize the many important factors that must be addressed in order to improve the availability of safe water for drinking, other domestic and livelihood-supporting activities at household level. This workshop report summarises presentations made during the workshop, the findings of field visits and group work, and discussion sessions.