Ground-water hydrology of the Punjab region of West Pakistan, with emphasis on problems caused by canal irrigation

Water Supply Paper 1608-H

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Rising water tables and the salinization of land as the result of canal irrigation threaten the agricultural economy of the Punjab. Since 1954 the Water and Soils Investigation Division of the West Pakistan Water and Power Development Authority has inventoried the water and soils resources of the Punjab and investigated the relations between irrigation activities, the natural hydrologic factors, and the incidence of waterlogging and subsurface-drainage problems. This report summarizes the findings of the investigation, which was carried out under a cooperative agreement between the Government of Pakistan and the U.S. Agency for International Development, and its predecessor, the U.S. International Cooperation Administration. Leakage from the canal systems, some of which have been in operation for more than 100 years, is the principal cause of rising water levels and constitutes the major component of ground-water recharge in the Punjab. Geologic studies have shown that virtually the entire Punjab is underlain to depths of 1,000 feet or more by unconsolidated alluvium, which is saturated to within a few feet of land surface. The alluvium varies in texture from medium sand to silty clay, but sandy sediments predominate. Large capacity wells, yielding 4 cfs or more, can be developed almost everywhere. Ground water occurring within a depth of 500 feet below the surface averages less than 1,000 ppm of dissolved solids throughout approximately two-thirds of the Punjab. It is estimated that the volume of usable ground water in storage in this part of the alluvial aquifer is on the order of 2 billion acre-feet. In the other one-third of the Punjab, total dissolved solids range from 1,000 to about 20,000 ppm. In about one-half of this area (one-sixth of the area of the Punjab) some ground water can be utilized by diluting with surface water from canals. The ground-water reservoir underlying the Punjab is an unexploited resource of enormous economic value. It is recognized that the scientific management of this ground-water reservoir is the key to permanent irrigation agriculture in the Punjab. The West Pakistan Water .and Power Development Authority has prepared a long-range program for reclaiming the irrigated lands of the Punjab. The essential feature of this program is a proposed network of tubewells (drilled wells) located with an .average density of about one per square mile. Groundwater withdrawals will serve the dual purpose of helping to supply irrigation requirements and of providing subsurface drainage. Despite the feasibility and inherent advantages of tubewell reclamation methods, it is inevitable that just as the superposition of the canal system on the native environment caused undesirable side effects, large-scale ground-water withdrawals again will disturb the hydrologic regimen. The distribtution of withdrawals and maintenance of a favorable salt balance are two distinct, but related aspects of the ground-water budget that present potential hazards that must be considered in the design and management of the tubewell projects. The availability of ground water for irrigation diminishes from northeast to southwest, or downgradient along the doab (an area lying between two rivers) and is negligible in the centers of the lower parts of the doabs, where the ground water is too highly mineralized for use. Ground-water supplies must be developed in areas where they are available and it might become necessary, under a program of maximum exploitation of ground-water resources, to transfer supplies from outside sources to points of use in the lower parts of the doabs. Several factors inherent in the tubewell system will tend to depreciate the quality of ground water with time. Among these are the addition of salts leached from the soils, increased concentration of salts due .to repeated cycles of recirculation, and the possible lateral and upward encroachment of saline water in response to pumping. It is reasonably ce

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Ground-water hydrology of the Punjab region of West Pakistan, with emphasis on problems caused by canal irrigation
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Water Supply Paper
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U.S. G.P.O.,
iv, 66 p. :ill., maps ;24 cm.