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Status of Surface & Ground Water Resources

Status of Surface Water


  • River System

o    The state of Punjab derives its name from 'Punj' 'Aab' i.e. the land of five rivers (flowed through erstwhile Punjab namely, Satluj, Beas, Ravi, Jhelum & Chenab).However, after the state's partition first in 1947, and subsequently its reorganisation in 1966, only Satluj and Beas flow through it, while Ravi touches it at its north border. Another small river Ghaggar flows through its southern border. The Ravi, Beas and Satluj are the Perennial rivers, while Ghagger, is seasonal river.

o    The Ravi enters Punjab plains near Madhopur and passes on to Pakistan 26 km below Amritsar.

o    The Beas enters Punjab near Talwara and enters the plains to meet the satluj at Harike. Its total length is 470 km and catchment area is 20303 sq km.

o    The Satluj enters Punjab near Nangal, moves on to plains at Ropar, passes through district Ludhiana and joins Beas at Harike before crossing over to Pakistan. Its total length is 440 km in the state.

o    River Gaggar Punjab near Mubarkpur traversing through district Patiala, Sangrur and Mansa and then it re-enters Harayana.

                            Map showing Major Rivers and Canals of Punjab (Click Here)

  • Canal System

o    The state of Punjab has a well-developed canal system. Most of the canals were constructed/upgraded after independence and/or reorganization of the state.

o    The main canals from River Satluj are Anandpur Hydel Channel and Bhakhra Main Line (BML).  BML further bifurcates into Narwana branch and Bhakhra main branch.

o    At Ropar again two main canals, Sirhind canal and Bist Doab canal originate.  At Harike, Satluj feeds water to Rajasthan feeder canal and Ferozepur feeder canal.  The Bikaner canal (Gang Canal) originates at Hussainiwala, one main canal from Beas originates at Shah Nehar Barrage called Shah Nehar or Mukerian Hydel Channel.  The major irrigation canal originating from Ravi at Madhopur is Upper Bari Doab Canal (UBDC). The total stretch of canals & distributaries (including minor distributaries) is approx. 14500 km.

                         Canal Network Map of Punjab (Click Here)

o    The Rajasthan feeder canal has the maximum capacity of 18500 Cusecs. The detailed capacity of various canals is given in the figure below:

                        Details of capacity of various canals in Punjab



 Source:  Department of Irrigation, Government of Punjab as cited in Tiwana et.al.,2005

o    Sirhind canal system has the maximum Culturable Command Area  of 1.36 million ha. The details of  Culturable Command Areas is presented in figure below: 

Details of Culturable Command Area (CCA) of various Canal Systems in Punjab.

Source:  Department of Irrigation, Government of Punjab as cited in Tiwana et.al.,2005

                     Capacity of  various Canals of Punjab (Click Here)

  • Drainage System

o    An 8000 km long drainage exists in the state. It helps in quickly dealing with heavy runoff and in preventing water logging.

o    The drains between Ravi and Beas are Sakki Kiran Nallah, Hudiara Nallah, Kasur Nallah and Patti Nallah.

o    Two Beins (rivulets) flow between Beas and Satluj i.e. the West/Kali Bein and West/Safed Bein.Other major drains falling in river Satluj are Jalabad drainage system and Budha Nallah.

                   Drainage Network Map of Punjab (Click Here)

  • Wetlands

o    Punjab is well known for its wetlands with its three Ramsar sites (Harike, Kanjli and Ropar). There are 12 major natural and 9 manmade wetlands in the state.

o    About 0.31% of the state’s area is under natural and manmade wetlands.  The twelve important natural wetlands cover a total area of 8.44 sq km and  9 manmade wetlands cover an area of 101.35 sq km.


                      For List of Wetlands (Click Here)

  • Dams & Reserviors

o    The state has two large dams, Bhakhra on river Sutlej and Ranjit Sagar on river Ravi.

o    The major barrages are at Madhopur, Hussainiwala, Shahpur Kandi, Tajewala, Shah Nehar, etc., in addition to Harike, Kanjli & Ropar which have been constructed to facilitate hydro power production and irrigation in the state. 

o    The total state reservoir area amounts to 157 sq km.  

  • Choes in Punjab

o    Several seasonal rivers/rivulets known as ‘Choes’ are also found in the Shivalik area. These are mainly responsible for soil erosion in Hoshiarpur, Nawanshar & Ropar districts.  As many as 93 ‘choes’ are reported to flow in Hoshiarpur district alone.

o    It has been reported that these seasonal rivulets used to bring down approximately 35 tonnes/ha/annum of soil. This has been reduced to about 18 tonnes/ha/annum with the efforts of Soil Conservation and Forests Departments.

                        District wise area under Choes and Sand in Punjab 


Source: Director of Land Records, Punjab as cited in Tiwana et al., 2005


      • Ground water resources in the state are being used for drinking and irrigation to a large extent. The total replenishable ground water resource in the state is 1.87 mham/yr out of which 0.18 mham is used for domestic & industrial uses. The net draft for irrigation is 1.61 mham/yr (Mittal & Vashisht, 2004).
      • The present ground water development (ratio of gross ground water draft for all uses to net ground water availability) in the state is 145% as on March 2004 (Source: Report on Dynamic Ground Water Resources of Punjab, 2005).
      • According to Planning Commission, Government of India (2007-2012), in Punjab, the use of ground water in excess of recharge is leading to :
    •  Fall in water table especially in the fresh ground water areas besides problem of water logging and salinity in south western districts.

      o    Fall in the levels of ground water at 0.2 to 0.3 m/year) in Central Punjab.

      • Out of 137 blocks of the state, 103 blocks are overexploited, 5 blocks are critical, 4 blocks are semi critical and only 25 blocks are in safe category as shown in the fig. below (Source: Report on Dynamic Ground Water Resources of Punjab, 2005).
      Categorization of Blocks in Punjab based on Ground Water Development

Over exploited: Exploitation>100%, Critical: Exploitation > 90%< =100%, 

Semi Critical : Exploitation > 70% < =90%, Safe: Exploitation < =70% , 

                                  Source: CGWB, North Western Region & Deptt. of Irrigation, Punjab, 2005as cited in

  • The seriousness of the ground water situation can be gauged from the following facts (CGWB & Department of irrigation, Punjab, 2005 as cited in Tiwana et.al., 2007):

o    The ground water in 75% of total geographical area of the state is over exploited in terms of stage of ground water development, as exploitation is more than 100 percent,

o    7% area of the state is under the category of critical and semi critical category

o    18 % area of the state is safe for ground water development and only a part of this is in Kandi area zone. The rest is in south western Punjab and is saline and unfit for use.

  • All the blocks of various districts like Amritsar (16 blocks), Jalandhar (10 blocks), Moga (5 blocks), Kapurthala (5 blocks), Sangrur (12 blocks), Fathegarh Sahib (5 blocks), Patiala (8 out of 9 blocks) and Ludhiana (9 out of 10 blocks) were found to be over-exploited. Data indicates that the number of dark/ overexploited blocks have sharply escalated during the period 1992 to 2004 as shown in fig below.

Increase/decrease in number of various categories of blocks in Punjab

from 1984-2004




   Source: CGWB, North Western Region & Deptt of Irrigation, Punjab, 2005 

  • The water table has receded at an annual average rate of 55 cm across the state (between1993-2003), however, the central districts (like Amritsar, Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Ludhiana, Patiala, etc.) recorded a fall of 75 cm. Further, districts like, Moga, Sangrur, Patiala, Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Kapurthala, are the worst hit as the water table depletion beyond 10 m increased from 3 percent area in 1973 to 95 percent area in 2005.
  • Water table in most parts of state has receded at the rate of 0 to 2 meters during the period June 2004 to June 2005. In some parts of blocks in districts Moga (Moga I, Dharamkot), Sangrur (Malerkotla, Ahmadgarh, Sherpur), Kapurthala (Sultanpur), Jalandhar (East), Patiala (Patran), Hoshiarpur (Mahalpur, Bhunga, Hazipur), and Nawanshahr (Banga, Aur), however, the water table has gone down by more than 2 meters (Source: Directorate of Water Resource and Environment, Punjab,2006 as cited in Tiwana et al., 2007).
  • In the south western parts of the state the water table has risen in the range of 0 to 2 meters in Mukatsar (Lambhi, Malout, Kot Bahi), Ferozpur (Guruhar Sahai, Mamdot, Jalalabad), Bathinda (Sangat) and parts of Mansa districts during 2004-05 resulting in water logging and soil salinity (Source: Tiwana et al., 2007).
  • Besides this, sweet ground water table has also raisen by 0-2 m in some blocks of districts Ludhiana (Sidhwan Bet, Samrala, Pakholwal), Patiala (Bhuner, Samaur, Rajpura), Mohali (Derabassi, Kharar), Ropar (Anandpur Sahib, Chamkur Sahib, Nurpur Bedi), Gurdaspur (Kahnuwan, Kalanaur, Dinanagar, Bamyal, Narot Jaimal Singh, Dera Baba Nanak, Fatehgarh Churian) and Amritsar (Ajnala, Chola Sahib, Patti). Most of this is around/ near river and/or major canal systems or reservoirs. The water table has risen by more than 2 metres in some parts of Sidhwan Bet block in Ludhiana district (near river Satluj) during 2004-05 (Source: Tiwana et al., 2007).
  • District wise ground water availability, ground water draft and net ground water availability for future irrigation, is presented in Fig. Below. Another issue of concern is that water in a large part of the area, which indicates positive ground water balance, is saline and hence unfit for consumption.

 District wise Ground Water Availability, Ground Water Draft and Net Ground Water Availability for Future Irrigation, Punjab in 2005


Source: CGWB, North Western Region & Deptt of Irrigation, Punjab, 2005


Map showing the Rise / Fall of water table (in meters) in Punjab from June 2004 to June 2005