Inefficiency and a lack of regular on-farm water supply led to many farmers becoming disillusioned with large scale irrigation systems. As cheap pumps became more widely available, their advantages were immediately obvious: by controlling how much water they could get, and when they got it, farmers could intensify and diversify the agricultural enterprise. To encourage agricultural production, state governments often provided subsidised power to farmers. The result, according to one researcher was a ‘colossal anarchy’ of groundwater exploitation. Water tables dropped, more power was consumed, problems of aquifer contamination began to proliferate, and fears of the sustainability of output rose. IWMI, in partnership with local institutions, undertook pioneering work in Gujarat which has had a major impact on this situation and is now being rolled out nationally.
In areas where groundwater is underused, IWMI and its local partners have also made contributions to improved water management for poverty alleviation such as in West Bengal.