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Water Financing Partnership Facility

RETA 6498: Knowledge and Innovation Support for ADB’s Water Financing


Final Report

February 2018

SRI: Design and Pilot Testing of

Performance-Based Management of
Groundwater Use in Irrigation

Prepared by International Water Management Institute (IWMI)

The Pilot and Demonstration Activity Report is a document of the proposer. The views expressed herein do not
necessarily represent those of ADB’s Board of Directors, Management, or staff, and may be preliminary in
nature. In preparing any country program or strategy, financing any project, or by making any designation of or
reference to a particular territory or geographic area in this document, the Asian Development Bank does not
intend to make any judgments as to the legal or other status of any territory or area.
Table of Contents
List of figures ______________________________________________________________ ii
List of Tables ______________________________________________________________ ii
List of Abbreviations _________________________________________________________ iii
1 Summary _______________________________________________________ 1
2 Introduction _____________________________________________________ 3
2.1 Background and rationale __________________________________________ 3
2.2 Objectives and scope of the study ____________________________________ 4
2.3 Expected results _________________________________________________ 4
3 Study Area and Methods ___________________________________________ 5
3.1 Study area ______________________________________________________ 5
3.2 The approach ___________________________________________________ 6
3.3 Data collection ___________________________________________________ 7
3.3.1 Baseline survey __________________________________________________ 7
3.3.2 Assessment of energy consumed for groundwater pumping _______________ 10
3.3.3 Regular monitoring of groundwater depths of selected wells during a single
cropping season ________________________________________________ 11
3.3.4 Groundwater quality assessment ___________________________________ 12
3.3.5 Formulation of recommendations to manage, and minimize hazards associated
with the use of groundwater in irrigated areas __________________________ 14
4 Results _______________________________________________________ 14
4.1 Groundwater depths and its variation in the study area. __________________ 14
4.1.1 Estimation of groundwater volumes using Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
_____________________________________________________________ 15
4.1.2 Water duty and extra areas cultivated ________________________________ 17
4.2 Water quality in the study area _____________________________________ 17
4.2.1 Variation of nutrient parameters ____________________________________ 21
4.2.2 Variation of heavy metals _________________________________________ 22
4.3 Energy audit ___________________________________________________ 22
4.4 Stakeholder consultations _________________________________________ 23
4.4.1 Stakeholders meeting on 17th August 2017 ____________________________ 23
4.4.2 Meeting to Disseminate the Results of the PDA on 29 August 2017 _________ 25
4.5 Formulation of recommendations to manage, and minimize hazards associated
with the use of groundwater in irrigated areas __________________________ 27
References _______________________________________________________________ 29
Annexes _________________________________________________________________ 30
Annex 1. Real time groundwater monitoring system ______________________________ 30
Annex 2. Groundwater quality analysis ________________________________________ 32
Annex 3. Assessment of soil parameters ______________________________________ 34

Figure 1. Agro-wells in the study area. ___________________________________________ 4
Figure 2. Mahaweli System H showing the study area _______________________________ 6
Figure 3. IWMI field staff interviewing farmers. _____________________________________ 8
Figure 4. Locations of agro-wells in the study area. _________________________________ 9
Figure 5. Vegetable fields in the study area. _____________________________________ 10
Figure 6. Groundwater extraction by diesel pumps. ________________________________ 11
Figure 7. Automatic groundwater level monitoring instrument installed in Mahaweli
System H ________________________________________________________ 12
Figure 8. (a) Water quality monitoring locations (b) Field staff collecting water samples from
agro-wells and (c) Testing collected water samples in the laboratory at the Rajarata
University _________________________________________________________ 13
Figure 9. Weekly variations of groundwater depths at the automatically monitored locations _ 14
Figure 10. Interpolated groundwater and soil depths _______________________________ 15
Figure 11. Weekly availability of groundwater in the study area _______________________ 16
Figure 12. Variation of Ph at 10 locations during the study period. _____________________ 18
Figure 13. Variation of EC at the 10 locations during the study period __________________ 18
Figure 14. Temporal variation of RSC at 10 monitoring locations. _____________________ 21
Figure 15. Participants expressing their opinions during the discussion session __________ 24
Figure 16. Farmers and MASL officials expressing their opinions in the session. __________ 26

Table 1. Estimated porosity values for the different locations in the study area ___________ 16
Table 2. Estimated additional cultivable extents of different crop types with groundwater
potential __________________________________________________________ 17
Table 3. Summary statistics of groundwater quality.________________________________ 19
Table 4. Fuel cost of different crops ____________________________________________ 22

ADB Asian Development Bank
EC Electrical Conductivity
GIS Geographic Information Systems
GPS Global Positioning System
ID Irrigation Department
IWMI International Water Management Institute
MASL Mahaweli Authority of Sri Lanka
MIWM Ministry of Irrigation and Water Management
NCP North Central Province
OFC Other Field Crops
PBM Performance Based Management
PID Provincial Irrigation Department
RBMC Right Bank Main Canal
RPM Resident Project Manager
RSC Residual Sodium Carbonate
SAR Sodium Adsorption Ratio
WRB Water Resources Board of Sri Lanka

Mahaweli System H (40,000 ha) is one of the first irrigation systems developed under
the Accelerated Mahaweli Development Program and is located in the Kala Oya Basin in the
North Central Province (NCP) of Sri Lanka. Past data on agriculture in System H indicate that
the extent cultivated during the Yala (dry) season is 30-50% less compared to the area
cultivated in the Maha season. These cultivated extents were driven purely by the surface water
availability. In order to overcome water scarcity during the Yala season, a number of
organizations provide assistance to farmers in the construction of agro-wells. In a previous
study conducted by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) in this area, more than
4,750 agro-wells, scattered across System H, were recorded, and the estimated use of
groundwater for agriculture alone was about 8 MCM within the command area of the Right Bank
Main Canal (RBMC).

In 2016, with financial assistance from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), an in-depth
study was conducted to understand groundwater availability and suitability for irrigation. The
project period was one year from July 2016 to July 2017. The 14 km2 study area selected was
near the tail end of the RBMC of the Mahaweli System H.

During the study period, the depth to the water table in some areas fluctuated between
20 cm and 200 cm. At majority of the locations, groundwater depths were shallow during the
period April to August (dry season) when canal water is available. Further analysis indicated
that about 2.9 MCM of water replenishes the shallow aquifer from the canal releases during this
period. This volume is sufficient to irrigate 135 hectares (ha) of additional paddy at the current
rate of water use. However, if this water is used for irrigating other less water-consuming crops,
a larger area can be irrigated.

The majority of the water quality parameters studied indicates suitability for irrigation. For
instance, pH values at different locations during the study period range from 6.4 to 8.02 and is
within the optimum range for irrigation water. The maximum value of Electrical Conductivity (EC)
recorded during the study period was 0.51 dS/m and is well within the recommended range.
Residual Sodium Carbonate (RSC) values are higher than the recommended range (2.5 me/l)
from January to February 2017.

The energy audit shows that the average cost for pumped water is about LKR 21,500/ha
and LKR 15,100/ha for hosepipe irrigation and micro-sprinkler irrigation, respectively.

Two meetings were conducted to share the results of this study with the stakeholders.
The first meeting was held in Colombo to share the results with the high level officials from the
Mahaweli Authority of Sri Lanka (MASL), the Irrigation Department of Sri Lanka (ID), Water
Resources Board of Sri Lanka (WRB), and the Ministry of Irrigation and Water Management
(MIWM). The second meeting was conducted in the Mahaweli System H area. Participants in
this meeting included staff attached to the Resident Project Managers’ Office (RPM),
Thambuttegama of MASL, field staff from all the MASL blocks in System H, and selected
farmers from the study area. During these two meetings, stakeholders expressed their views
about the findings of the study. Officials from various organizations that attended the first
meeting suggested extending the study to assess the downstream impacts of increased

groundwater utilization in upstream areas. Farmers also expressed their views on the
importance of groundwater use for irrigation and the issues they are currently facing in the field,
which include lack of (i) finances, (ii) knowledge on new technologies, (iii) information on less
water-consumptive crops and water availability, and (iv) access to markets.


2.1 Background and rationale

1. Agriculture in Sri Lanka accounts for about 42% of the total land area of the country,
where smallholder farmers predominantly cultivating paddy dominate its agricultural sector. The
dry zone region of Sri Lanka covers 75% of its total area but contains only 30% of the water
resources and accounts for 80% of the water demand. Similar to the rest of the island, the
majority of the population in the dry zone are involved in agriculture and agiculture related
activities. Around 85% of developed water in the country is used for agriculture, of which 90% is
used for high water consuming paddy cultivation. Therefore, paddy is the dominant crop under
irrigation. Paddy is cultivated mostly in the dry zone requiring supplementary irrigation during
both Maha and Yala seasons.

2. The primary cultivation season in the dry zone (Maha) spans from November to March
and the secondary cultivation season (Yala) spans from May to September. Maha coincides
with the main rainfall season while Yala coincides with the dry months. Supply of water to
irrigated areas in the dry zone is from three sources: (i) seasonal rainfall during November to
March (in Maha); (ii) storage in irrigation reservoirs; and (iii) additional water supplied from river
diversions (predominantly in Yala) for some areas. Irrigation infrastructure in the dry zone plays
a vital role in sustaining agriculture.

3. However, high variability in rainfall and canal water supply leads to uncertainty in water
availability for agriculture ans creates water deficit conditions for crops during drier months.
Further, climate variability has aggravated this situation in some areas in the country, especially
in the dry zone. There exists an immediate need to explore other alternatives of water resources
in the dry zone to augment agricultural production in the dry months. Supported by state
authorities and INGOs, farmers now increasingly resort to groundwater irrigation in most parts of
dry zone.

4. To offset the irrigation supply irregularities, some farmers even in the water surplus
Mahaweli systems have resorted to extracting shallow groundwater through large diameter
agro-wells (Fig. 1). Water from agro-wells are used to cultivate less water consuming non-paddy
crops during the dry season. However, many of these wells have been constructed without
following any technical guideline and are, therefore, prone to cause adverse impacts.
Unplanned extraction of groundwater can lead to rapid decrease in groundwater level; affect
overall water availability and impact environment.

5. However, groundwater provides a valuable buffer to farmers during droughts since

aquifer systems tend to respond more slowly than surface water systems to short-term climate
variability. Haphazard management of this buffering source can eventually have a serious
impact on the environment while in the short run providing benefits to the water scarce dry zone
agricultural practices.

Figure 1. Agro-wells in the study area.

6. Although providing much needed water to farmers faced with drought, the haphazard
expansion of agro-wells could affect the quantity and quality of the available water. About
50,000 agro-wells are found to be in use as a supplementary source of water for agricultural
crops in the dry zone, thereby increasing the risk of secondary salinization of agricultural lands.
Other environmental impacts, normally attributed to over exploitation of groundwater, such as,
depletion of stream flows and degradation of eco-systems have not been sufficiently studied in
the irrigation systems of the dry zone. Consequently, a PDA was proposed to test the potential
for a performance based management (PBM) system to encourage farmers to manage surface
and groundwater resources conjunctively for agricultural purposes.

2.2 Objectives and scope of the study

7. This PDA was formulated to

• Design and test a system for Performance Based Management (PBM) of groundwater
use in irrigation, including analysis and farmer consultation.
• Support the improvement of on-farm water management strategies to minimize the
demand for surface water for irrigation in the dry zone agricultural practices.
• Provide recommendations to water institutions and agro-well users on best practices for
the sustainable use of groundwater in fulfilling crop water demands, while reducing
environmental hazards associated with groundwater overuse.

9. To achieve these objectives, a pilot study was designed to assess crop water use, water
percolated to the phreatic surface and groundwater extraction. It was envisaged that such an
assessment would help identify potential risk levels associated with the extraction of
groundwater for irrigation. In this study, the risks are assessed in terms of the energy consumed
and the environmental consequences of pumping groundwater for the type of agriculture
currently practiced in the dry zone.

2.3 Expected results

10. The output expected from this study is the design of a PBM system for the minimization
of environmental risks associated with extraction of groundwater for irrigation purposes. The

resulting outcome expected is that the staff of the MIWM, the Irrigation Department (ID),
Provincial Irrigation Department (PID) of the North Central Province (NCP) and the Mahaweli
Authority of Sri Lanka (MASL) will customize irrigation scheduling associated with groundwater
extraction, while minimizing potential environmental hazards. The impact of this study will be the
reduced environmental risk associated with groundwater use in irrigation schemes in the dry


3.1 Study area

11. Project activities were carried out in an irrigated area belonging to Mahaweli System H –
one of the largest river irrigation systems in Sri Lanka - located in the Tambutthegama area in
the North Central Province of Sri Lanka. The selected study area is Unit 411 of the Thalawa
Block (Figure. 2) and represents approximately 10% of the area cultivated under agro-well
irrigation during the Yala season in Mahaweli System H. Covering a geographical extent of 14
km2, this area receives irrigation water through the right bank main canal (RBMC) from the Kala
Oya reservoir. The Kala Oya reservoir is fed by the Mahaweli diversion system and runoff from
its own catchment. The MASL uses five distributary canals (411/D1, 411/D2, D2/SD6, 411/D3,
411/D4) to deliver water to the study area. According to a survey conducted by IWMI in 2015,
there are 383 agro wells in the study area. During the Yala seasons of 2016 and 2017, the
available irrigation supply from canals was insufficient to meet the crop-water requirements.
Therefore, MASL recommended to the farmers to cultivate less water consuming crops, such as
chili and vegetables and to irrigate only a part of the total command area depending on the
availability of water. Farmers, however, extracted supplementary water needed from nearby
agro-wells, in addition to the limited irrigation supplies to fulfil their seasonal irrigation demand.

Figure 2. Mahaweli System H showing the study area

3.2 The approach

12. The tasks carried out while implementing the PDA are listed below. Detailes
descriptions of each of the tasks, including timelines and activities performed on and off the
field, are set out in Section 2.3.

• Area selection: consultation with stakeholder agencies and farmer organizations, and
assessment of operational characteristics of the selected irrigation area by reviewing
past seasonal irrigation and cropping data
• Baseline survey and characterization of agricultural and domestic wells in the study
• Assessment of energy consumed in pumping groundwater;
• Regular monitoring of groundwater depths of selected wells throughout a cropping
• Laboratory tests to assess the quality variations of groundwater and parameters of the
soil structure; and
• Formulation of recommendations to manage, and minimize hazards associated with the
use of groundwater in irrigated areas

13. Before commencing the PDA, the project staff from IWMI and staff from ADB held an
inception meeting with the MASL Resident Project Manager (RPM) of the study area and his
technical staff. The study area within the Thalawa Block was selected for assessment based on:
(i) the map of the distribution of agro-wells in the Mahaweli Irrigation System H previously
prepared by IWMI; and (ii) in consultation with farmer leaders and MASL field staff. Having
reviewed the spatial distribution of agro-wells, the cultivation pattern, irrigation facilities, and
other topographical features, Unit No. 411 of the Tambuttegama Block (14 km2) was selected as
the study area. An experienced IWMI field officer was deployed to collect information on
seasonal irrigation water deliveries, crop types and extents, and other records maintained at the
RPM’s office.

14. A stakeholder awareness meeting was held on Sep 11, 2016 in the study area to inform
farmers of the objectives of the study and its details with the participation of MASL field staff,
IWMI project staff, and the ADB project officer. During this meeting, farmers expressed their
views on irrigation with agro-wells and the difficulties they face in terms of water availability,
especially, during dry periods when they cultivate other field crops (OFC) instead of high water
consuming paddy crop. These field crops too, require an irrigation water delivery once in every
2-3 days. However, with the shortage of irrigation water, Mahaweli system releases water to all
farms onlh once in 10 days.

3.3 Data collection

3.3.1 Baseline survey

15. A baseline survey was carried out in the first three weeks of August 2016 to collect data
on agricultural practices, the timing and the pattern of surface irrigation, groundwater extraction,
and the costs and revenue of crop cultivation ( Figure 3). The 2016 cropping calendar of the dry
season (Yala) was reviewed to identify cropping patterns and extents. The Water Management
Plan of the MASL was used to understand the irrigation schedules in the study area. Fifty
farmers in the study area were interviewed to collect information on their expenditure and
income from crop cultivation using agro-wells and irrigation water.

Figure 3. IWMI field staff interviewing farmers.

16. Based on the topography, and the distribution of agro-wells in the study area, ten
ground locations were selected for instrumentation for the automated measurement of
groundwater level variations and salinity levels continuously. Additionally, 27 agro-wells were
selected for manual monitoring of groundwater levels to understand the salinity, where the IWMI
field officer was deployed to visit these wells weekly to take measurements of the depth to
groundwater level and electrical conductivity (EC). EC measurements were taken using a
handheld instrument.

17. Locations, water depths and ownership of wells: A GPS survey was conducted to
collect information on the location of agro-wells and the farms in the study area. During the
survey, data on water depths were collected manually. Several additional parameters such as
ownership, age, physical parameters of the well and details of the owner and several relevant
socio-economic data was also collected. Figure 4 shows the locations of agro-wells in the study

Figure 4. Locations of agro-wells in the study area.

18. Crops cultivated under the command area of each well during the Yala season of
2016: The individual farm size in the area is approximately one hectare. However, due to
limited canal water supply, farmers tend to cultivate only a portion of the farm. Official figures of
the crop varieties cultivated in the area and respective cultivated extents for the 2016 Yala
season were collected from the RPM’s office. Farm scale information on the types of crops
grown in individual farms (Figure 5) were collected from 50 randomly selected farm plots during
the field survey. The extent under each crop was obtained through interviews and in some
cases through visual estimation. This information was used along with climate data to estimate
crop water requirements in the study area.

Figure 5. Vegetable fields in the study area.

3.3.2 Assessment of energy consumed for groundwater pumping

19. Data on the energy consumed in pumping groundwater were collected from individual
farmers during the baseline survey. Twenty eight farm plots that use pumped water from agro-
wells to supplement irrigation canal supplies to cultivate OFCs were included in the survey. The
data collected contain the capacity of the pump, time spent on pumping, fuel consumption and
related costs. During fieldwork, it was observed that farmers were using a number of methods to
pump groundwater from agro-wells to irrigate their farms (Figure 6). However, more than 90% of
agro-well water use farmers use fuel driven (diesel or kerosene) pumps.

Figure 6. Groundwater extraction by diesel pumps.

3.3.3 Regular monitoring of groundwater depths of selected wells during a single

cropping season

20. From August 15, 2016, the behavior of the groundwater table of the study area was
monitored manually, on a weekly basis, using 27 selected agro-wells. This helped to understand
the general pattern of the groundwater behaviour. Further, from carefully selected ten locations,
new boreholes were drilled and electronic instruments were installed to verify this general
behaviour. Excavation of boreholes to install these electronic instruments took longer than
anticipated due to encountered harsh ground conditions and dry weather. Instrumentation was
completed by 20th September 2016, and thereafter continuous measurements were recorded.
The installed instruments measure the depth to the groundwater table from the ground surface
level in centimeters. The measured depths were transmitted to a central server that enabled
real time monitoring at one-minute intervals through a web link ( This
instrumentation eased out the arduous manual measurements done on a weekly basis. Figure 7
shows an electronic instrument installed at one location in the study area and Annex 1 presents
the details of the web interface from which the the groundwater data was downloaded.

21. By the middle of September 2016, delivery of irrigation water through canals was
terminated and farmers were fully dependent on groundwater. Collection of data using
electronic loggers was continued to assess long-term availability of groundwater.

Figure 7. Automatic groundwater level monitoring instrument installed in Mahaweli System H

3.3.4 Groundwater quality assessment

22. Laboratory tests to assess the quality of the water commenced in the first week of
October 2016, when irrigation water deliveries were terminated, and farmers began extracting
groundwater. Water samples were collected from agro-wells between October 2016 and July
2017. These water samples were tested at the laboratory of Soil and Water Resources
Management, Faculty of Agriculture, Rajarata University of Sri Lanka, located close to the study
area. Water samples were collected monthly from 10 agro-wells distributed within the study area
for quality assessment. Laboratory tests were conducted to identify the levels of pH, Electrical
Conductivity (EC), CO3-,HCO3-, NO3-- N, NH4+ N, total P , Ca, Mg, Na, As and Cd in the shallow
groundwater. Figure 8 shows the locations of water quality monitoring, how the water samples
were collected and analyzed in the University laboratory. Annex 2 sets out the methodology
followed to analyze groundwater quality.


b c

Figure 8. (a) Water quality monitoring locations (b) Field staff collecting water samples from
agro-wells and (c) Testing collected water samples in the laboratory at the Rajarata University

3.3.5 Formulation of recommendations to manage, and minimize hazards
associated with the use of groundwater in irrigated areas

23. Evaluation and analysis of data of the dry season of 2016 commenced in October 2016.
Management recommendations arising out of this analysis are presented in the Results section


4.1 Groundwater depths and its variation in the study area.

24. The data collected from 28 manually and the 10 electronically monitored wells were
used to estimate the spatial and temporal variation of groundwater levels of the study area.
Figure 9 presents the weekly groundwater depth variations at automatically monitored locations.
To estimate the voulmes, data from both automatically and manually monitored locations were
May (2017)
Mar (2017)
Nov (2016)

Aug (2017)
Feb (2017)

Apr (2017)
Oct (2016)

Jun (2017)
Jan (2017)

Jul (2017)



Depth (cm)




Station 1 Station 2 Station 3 Station 4 Station 5

Station 6 Station 7 Station 8 Station 9 Station 10

Figure 9. Weekly variations of groundwater depths at the automatically monitored locations

25. The graphs clearly indicate that the groundwater surface at all 10 locations from
December 2016 to April 2017 occupies lower depths compared to the rest of the period. During
this period, irrigation water deliveries were minimal. As soon as irrigation deliveries began (after
April 2017), the groundwater levels moved closer to the ground surface. In some cases, e.g. in
stations 3 and 8, the depth to groundwater remained at less than half a meter from the surface
throughout the monitoring period. Also, even when irrigation water deliveries are minimal, the
ground water levels remained between 1- 2 meters from the ground surface at many of the
locations. However, in contrast, the level of groundwater at location 5 remained below 2 meters
from the ground level throughout the monitoring period. Nevertheless, water levels remain high

and close to 200cm below surface and respond immediately to the irrigation supplies, rising to
the level very near surface.

4.1.1 Estimation of groundwater volumes using Geographic Information Systems


26. The groundwater monitoring data were incorporated into a Geographic Information
System (GIS) database that included the location (UTM coordinates) and the weekly average
depth to groundwater of all the locations monitored. Since manual monitoring was carriedout on
a weekly basis, the automatically monitored continuous data were transformed into weekly
averages to maintain consistency. Depth surfaces were developed to estimate the spatial
distribution of the level of groundwater. The Inverse Distance Weighted (IDW) interpolation
approach was used to develop the groundwater surface. The interpolation was performed using
ArcGIS software, which generated raster files of the depth to groundwater for each week. The
spatial resolution (pixel size) of the interpolated surface is 50 x 50 m. The depth of the soil
column was estimated by using data collected by the Water Supply and Drainage Board of Sri
Lanka. Figure 10 shows the average groundwater depths for the period January to August
2017 and the interpolated soil depths in the study area.

Figure 10. Interpolated groundwater and soil depths

27. The raster surface of the depth of soil was also generated using the IDW method at 50 x
50 m pixel size. Depth of the soil column in the study area varies from 3.5 m to 5.5 m as shown
in Figure 10. The level of water in the soil for each week was estimated by subtracting the
depth to groundwater (in the generated groundwater surface layer) from the depth of soil (in the
generated soil surface layer) by using raster calculation methods in ArcGIS. The estimated
heights of water were multiplied by the soil porosity values to estimate the volume of water in
the soil column in each pixel. Analysis of soils in the area was conducted to estimate the
porosity at four locations. This analysis is described in Annex 3. The estimated porosity values
for different locations are presented in Table 1.

Table 1. Estimated porosity values for the different locations in the study area

Location Bulk density ( g/cm3) True Density ( g/cm3) Porosity (%)

1 1.44 2.67 46.07
2 1.49 2.64 43.56
3 1.52 2.60 41.54
4 1.43 2.70 47.04

28. Weekly volumes of groundwater available in the unsaturated zone in the study area
were estimated following the above procedure. Figure 11 shows the weekly variation of
groundwater volumes in the study area.


12 Average ( Apr - Aug) - 10.1 mcm

Average ( Jan - Aug) - 8.8 mcm
GW Availability (mcm)

8 2.9 mcm

6 Average ( Jan - Apr) - 7.2 mcm





Figure 11. Weekly availability of groundwater in the study area

29. As shown in Figure 11, average weekly groundwater volume available in the study area
from January to August 2017 is about 8.8 mcm. The average for January to April 2017 is 7.2
mcm. Weekly groundwater volumes between January and April fluctuated below the long-term
average. From the fourth week of March, groundwater availability showed an upward trend
indicating the increase of groundwater volumes and this time closely corresponding to the
commencement of water releases from the right bank main canal (RBMC) of Mahaweli System
H. After the second week of April, the groundwater volumes fluctuated above the average of the
period from January to August 2017 (8.8 mcm). The estimated average groundwater volume
from April to August was about 10.1 mcm indicating that during April to August about 2.9 mcm
of water can be extracted from the unsaturated zone and that it will still maintain the
groundwater volume at its average dry season level of 7.2 mcm.

4.1.2 Water duty and extra areas cultivated

30. According to the seasonal summary for Yala 2016 published by the Water Management
Secretariat (WMS) of the MASL, the water duty was 2,140 mm, which was about 21,400 m3 per
hectare. If we use the same water duty to use 2.9 MCM of water, farmers can irrigate an
additional 135 hectares in the area, which is about 25% of the 2017 Yala irrigated command
area (538 hectares). Irrigation duty includes a component to compensate for conveyance losses
due to evaporation and canal leakages. Use of groundwater by pumping from a nearby agro-
well will increase the water use efficiency by reusing water that is lost in conveyance. However,
pumping water in excess of crop water deficit may increase the drainage volumes and diminish
the gain of increased water use efficiency.

31. Table 2 shows the estimated 1 percentage cultivable extents of different crop types where
the groundwater potential of 2.9 MCM is fully utilized to meet the seasonal water requirement of
each single crop type. These crop types are commonly cultivated in the study area during water
scarce seasons.

Table 2. Estimated additional cultivable extents of different crop types with groundwater

Crop types Seasonal crop water Additional cultivable

commonly used in requirement (mm) extent (%) compared
System H to 2017 Yala extent
Groundnut 550 527 (98%)
Soya 450 644 (120%)
Chili 500 580 (108%)
Cabbage 450 644 (120%)
Onion 750 366 (72%)
Tomato 450 644 (120%)

4.2 Water quality in the study area

32. The suitability of groundwater for irrigation depends on its chemical composition.
Primarily, irrigation water quality is determined in terms of the degree of Acidity or Alkalinity
(pH), Electrical Conductivity (EC), Sodium Adsorption Ratio (SAR) and Residual Sodium
Carbonate (RSC). Excessive amounts of salt in general, sodium in particular, affect the soil
permeability, soil structure and create toxic conditions for plants. Table 3 shows the status of pH
and EC, by averaging 10 samples taken from each agro-well selected for the study.

33. The sample average of pH varies from 6.82 to 7.23 and the mean value of the samples
is 7.03. The optimum pH range for irrigation water is 6.5 to 8.4 (Ayers and Westcot, 1994).
Therefore, in terms of pH, all the wells have good quality water for irrigation. Well number WQ9
recorded the highest average pH of 7.23. However well No. WQ7 showed the highest pH (8.02)
(Figure 12), reported on 27-03-2017.

To estimate seasonal crop water requirements, crop coefficients (kc) were obtained from FAO56 (Allen

et al., 1998) under similar climatic conditions and crop development stages. The Penman– Monteith
method used for estimating the daily reference evapotranspiration (ET0) as required for the crop water
requirement estimations.






WQ1 WQ2 WQ3 WQ4 WQ5 WQ6 WQ7 WQ8 WQ9 WQ10
Locatrion number

Figure 12. Variation of Ph at 10 locations during the study period.

34. Average EC of the tested samples varied from 0.18 to 0.48 dS/m. According to the FAO
guidelines, waters having < 0.7 dS/m can be used for irrigation without any restriction. Thus, the
present study revealed that water from the tested wells could be used for irrigation without any
restriction in terms of EC. Figure 13 shows the variation of EC at the 10 locations monitored.



EC (dS/cm)




WQ1 WQ2 WQ3 WQ4 WQ5 WQ6 WQ7 WQ8 WQ9 WQ10

Figure 13. Variation of EC at the 10 locations during the study period

Table 3. Summary statistics of groundwater quality.
Agro-Well pH me/l (-) (-) (ppm) (ppm) (ppm) N (ppm) (ppm) (ppm) (ppb) (ppb) (ppb)
AVG 6.82 0.4 1.54 0.64 21.46 19.67 6.96 248.94 4.08 0.49 0.51 0.15 1.42 0.00 1.33 0.83
Max 7.25 0.47 3.78 0.86 26.90 37.23 18.00 379.42 6.22 1.51 1.69 0.87 2.37 0.02 4.22 8.10
Min 6.45 0.2 0.00 0.36 11.81 4.10 1.20 165.92 2.72 0.00 0.05 0.01 0.02 0.00 0.00 0.00
SD 0.25 0.07 1.26 0.16 4.67 9.69 5.33 82.27 1.35 0.51 0.52 0.24 0.81 0.01 1.70 2.42
AVG 6.88 0.24 1.01 0.47 21.71 11.04 5.84 144.22 2.36 0.58 3.69 0.10 0.88 0.04 0.82 0.73
Max 7.29 0.26 2.02 0.63 39.99 20.80 24.00 202.52 3.32 1.51 13.12 0.63 2.11 0.33 3.50 7.22
Min 6.45 0.23 0.00 0.07 9.36 0.53 1.20 95.16 1.56 0.00 0.05 0.01 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
SD 0.22 0.01 0.61 0.19 8.22 6.30 6.68 33.41 0.55 0.40 4.43 0.18 0.62 0.10 1.38 2.16
AVG 6.9 0.33 1.02 0.44 21.21 11.93 5.70 172.17 2.82 0.67 5.70 0.11 0.70 0.00 1.41 0.98
Max 7.24 0.36 2.54 0.63 64.76 22.04 18.00 268.40 4.40 1.51 12.72 0.58 1.35 0.00 4.48 9.72
Min 6.52 0.31 0.00 0.10 7.81 0.52 2.40 119.56 1.96 0.00 0.07 0.01 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
SD 0.2 0.01 0.87 0.15 15.19 6.85 4.90 52.13 0.85 0.59 4.46 0.16 0.49 0.00 1.86 2.92
AVG 7.01 0.18 0.98 0.55 25.31 11.19 4.44 120.54 1.98 0.72 2.28 0.09 2.68 0.00 0.61 0.80
Max 7.32 0.2 2.37 0.83 35.21 22.72 14.40 170.80 2.80 2.00 4.55 0.58 4.91 0.00 3.03 7.90
Min 6.41 0.11 0.00 0.10 16.38 0.54 1.20 63.44 1.04 0.00 0.45 0.01 0.21 0.00 0.00 0.00
SD 0.26 0.03 0.64 0.24 5.69 7.03 4.77 30.22 0.50 0.59 1.74 0.16 1.58 0.00 1.09 2.37
AVG 7.07 0.19 0.91 0.40 17.84 8.89 4.32 119.47 1.96 0.67 0.64 0.10 2.19 0.00 0.69 0.85
Max 7.5 0.2 1.81 0.60 32.53 20.28 18.00 179.34 2.94 2.10 1.69 0.63 3.79 0.00 4.10 8.45
Min 6.69 0.13 0.00 0.02 4.45 0.13 1.20 70.76 1.16 0.00 0.05 0.01 0.12 0.00 0.00 0.00
SD 0.24 0.02 0.67 0.22 8.77 5.91 4.81 39.41 0.65 0.63 0.52 0.18 1.40 0.00 1.37 2.53
AVG 6.99 0.48 2.49 1.12 36.61 29.15 7.00 293.71 4.81 0.70 0.94 0.47 3.18 0.00 1.17 1.00
Max 7.45 0.51 4.92 1.40 68.42 54.09 18.00 433.10 7.10 2.03 1.88 1.78 5.01 0.00 4.87 9.34
Min 6.41 0.42 0.00 0.69 18.19 7.90 2.40 207.40 3.40 0.00 0.25 0.07 0.35 0.00 0.00 0.00
SD 0.3 0.03 1.82 0.18 16.50 14.61 4.95 76.34 1.25 0.59 0.55 0.51 1.91 0.00 1.88 2.78
AVG 7.12 0.39 1.52 0.76 23.87 24.23 4.73 223.36 3.66 0.54 2.68 0.10 0.93 0.00 1.13 1.27
Max 8.02 0.41 3.99 1.14 36.01 45.80 9.80 342.82 5.62 1.48 6.14 0.58 2.60 0.01 4.73 12.51
Min 6.72 0.38 0.00 0.01 6.30 0.01 1.20 153.72 2.52 0.00 0.11 0.02 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
SD 0.36 0.01 1.27 0.39 8.58 14.05 2.82 67.77 1.11 0.42 2.13 0.16 0.96 0.00 1.56 3.75
WQ8 AVG 7.04 0.33 1.60 0.85 31.97 20.80 5.84 198.45 3.25 0.77 1.58 0.11 0.67 0.01 1.24 0.95

Max 7.6 0.35 3.27 1.19 41.38 38.98 18.00 326.96 5.36 2.42 6.94 0.58 1.39 0.08 5.78 9.35
Min 6.65 0.32 0.00 0.53 15.75 4.69 1.20 136.64 2.24 0.00 0.08 0.01 0.07 0.00 0.00 0.00
SD 0.27 0.01 1.16 0.22 7.33 11.15 5.17 55.69 0.91 0.70 2.00 0.16 0.47 0.03 2.00 2.80
AVG 7.23 0.33 1.29 0.50 18.15 15.48 6.18 205.15 3.36 0.41 0.95 0.10 0.59 0.18 1.87 0.90
Max 7.84 0.35 3.22 0.69 27.49 28.32 15.60 307.44 5.04 1.54 3.54 0.58 1.26 1.07 7.04 8.80
Min 6.77 0.32 0.00 0.03 9.51 0.06 2.40 131.76 2.16 0.00 0.01 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
SD 0.35 0.01 1.10 0.21 4.94 8.53 4.34 60.18 0.99 0.46 0.98 0.16 0.44 0.36 2.25 2.63
AVG 7.19 0.23 1.14 0.49 20.56 12.90 6.96 138.23 2.27 0.65 0.97 0.12 3.64 0.34 0.67 0.97
Max 7.71 0.33 2.95 0.84 34.58 24.34 36.00 233.02 3.82 1.25 2.36 0.72 10.30 2.85 3.21 9.53
Min 6.4 0.18 0.00 0.01 5.21 0.01 1.20 21.96 0.36 0.00 0.33 0.00 0.06 0.00 0.00 0.00
SD 0.37 0.04 1.00 0.25 8.00 8.34 10.24 55.62 0.91 0.45 0.65 0.20 3.03 0.85 1.10 2.85

35. The Residual Sodium Carbonate (RSC) indicates the excess of carbonates and
bicarbonates over calcium and magnesium in irrigation water. The data presented in Figure 14
revealed that average RSC values of irrigation waters during the study period varied from 0.91
to 2.49 me/l.


4.5 Average









WQ1 WQ2 WQ3 WQ4 WQ5 WQ6 WQ7 WQ8 WQ9 WQ10

Figure 14. Temporal variation of RSC at 10 monitoring locations.

RSC less than 1.25 me/l is considered safe and waters with RSC of 1.25-2.50 me/l are within
the marginal range. RSC > 2.5 is considered unsuitable (Sutharsiny et al., 2012). According to
this classification, average RSC levels at WQ2, WQ3, WQ4, WQ5 and WQ10 are below 1.25
me/l and the RSC levels at the other five locations are within marginal range. However, at the
majority of these locations maximum values are above 2.5 me/l and were found in January and
February. Low values of RSC were found in the months of April, May and June.

36. Sodium hazard is also usually expressed in terms of the sodium adsorption ratio (SAR).
Groundwater could be classified based on SAR as excellent (0-10), good (10-18), doubtful (18-
26) and unsuitable (>26) (Richards, 1954). According to the present analysis, SAR of the agro
well water in the Mahaweli H area varied from 0.44 to 1.12 and, therefore, the water is excellent
for irrigation in terms of SAR.

4.2.1 Variation of nutrient parameters

37. Nitrogen has a significant influence on plant growth, but may present a hazard for
drinking water sources if nitrate levels are >10 mg/l. According to FAO guidelines, sensitive
crops may be affected by nitrogen (NO3-N ) concentrations above 5 mg/l. Therefore, water of
wells WQ2 and WQ3 having a higher NO3- level may be of concern when cultivating N sensitive
crops, such as citrus.

38. Phosphorus concentrations should be as low as possible (lower than 1.0 mg/l) to avoid
algal blooms. As per the average results of the agro wells, the water is of a good quality that
may not show considerable eutrophication in terms of P. However, continuous monitoring may
be required, especially for unlined wells in the area, because the maximum P concentration
(1.78) recorded in location WQ6 could cause eutrophication, which may ultimately result in
lowering the water holding capacity of agro-wells.

4.2.2 Variation of heavy metals

39. This study also tested the concentration of a few heavy metals since the population in
the area suffer from CKDu. Heavy metals, especially Cd and As, are said to be a causative
factor for CKDu. Therefore, water of wells were tested for heavy metals. However, the results
showed that the heavy metals are in minute quantities and below the WHO standard. The FAO
has recommended a maximum Cd level in irrigation water as 0.01 ppm. Hence, the water of
these wells do not cause a serious threat from suspected heavy metals.

4.3 Energy audit

40. To understand the cost of energy for agriculture, information on energy used for
groundwater pumping was collected by interviewing 28 farmers in the study area. Data was
collected using a structured questionnaire. Farmers use 3-3.5 Horse Power pumps with 2-3
inches outlet pipe. Pumps are driven mainly by diesel. Information was collected from farmers
who use micro sprinkler irrigation systems and manual irrigation methods that use rubber pipes
to convey the water to the field. Table 4 presents the fuel cost to cultivate different crops in one

Table 4. Fuel cost of different crops

Fuel cost per Fuel cost per

season per acre in season per acre
sprinkler irrigation in manual
(LKR) irrigation (LKR)

Big Onion 15,960 19,950

Chili 20,900 26,790
Tomato 15,200 18,810
Capsicum 22,800 34,200
Knohkol 17,100 25,080
Groundnut 9,500 10,260
Cabbage 13,680 25,650
Soy beans 5,700 11,305

This clearly indicates that energy costs to pump water for sprinkler systems are lower compared
to normal systems. For some crops (cabbage and soybeans) the pumping cost can be reduced
to as low as 50% compared to manual irrigation. However, the initial cost to install a sprinkler
system over a one-hectare land is approximately Rs. 300,000. Further, according to the survey

results, farmers who used micro-sprinklers to irrigate their crops used 27% less water on
average compared to the standard irrigation methods.

4.4 Stakeholder consultations

41. Two stakeholders meetings were organized on 17/08/2017 and 29/08/2017 to

disseminate and discuss the Project results. The stakeholder meeting was held on 17th of
August 2017 at IWMI. The meeting to disseminate results of the PDA was held on 29 August
2017 at the Bishop Andrew Kumarage Memorial Centre, Talawa.

4.4.1 Stakeholders meeting on 17th August 2017

42. The key stakeholders who particated in this meeting were at the level of policy
formulation from various government departments. Participants from the Mahweli Authority of
Sri Lanka (MASL), the Irrigation Department of Sri Lanka (ID), Water Resources Board, Ministry
of Irrigation and Water Management (MIWM), representatives from the Asian Development
Bank (ADB) and the project staff from the International Water Management Institute (IWMI). The
main objective of this high-level stakeholder workshop was to share the findings of this study
with key policy formulators of the above-mentioned organizations, discuss the outcomes, and
brainstorm the conclusion. The discussions emphasized the need of policy formulation,
streamlining groundwater use for increasing resilience of smallholder farmers and in enhancing
resilience from climate vagaries. Figure 15 shows some of the participant in the meeting.

43. This stakeholder meeting consisted of two sessions. The first session was three
presentations covering the main PDA activities and the results. The second was discussions on
the PDA and the way forward.

44. The first presentation briefly introduced the background to the project:

• Background for initiating this GW monitoring study and its role in agriculture in System
• Inception of the project, field survey of agro-wells and estimated groundwater use for
agriculture in Mahaweli System H.
• Spatial distribution of cropping intensity and yields.
• Selection of pilot area for groundwater monitoring stations in the area based on number
of agro wells and its significance in a biophysical system.

45. The second presentation was about estimation of sustainably utilizable groundwater
potential in the study area and the following points were presented:

• Detailed description of the study area, such as number of agro-wells, farm plots, crops
cultivated during 2016 Yala.
• Field observation of water depths in agro-wells during Yala in the study area.
• Description of IWMI’s real time groundwater monitoring system and overview of the
sensor setup.
• Weekly groundwater volumes available in the study area during the agriculture season.
• Potential for additional irrigated area by using available GW sustainably.

46. The study concluded that significant potential exists in the pilot area to include an
additional agricultural area by tapping into the canal fed groundwater system. However, it
cautioned that adequate policy formulations and a monitoring system has to be put in place to
avoid over-exploitation of groundwater by the agro wells.

47. In the third presentation, results of groundwater quality assessments conducted in the
pilot area were presented.

• A brief overview of sampling methodology, water quality parameters to be analysed

• Methods of analysis
• Spatial and temporal distributions of water quality parameters in the study area was
• The study concluded that the groundwater quality met all the WHO standards for water
use in agriculture.

Figure 15. Participants expressing their opinions during the discussion session

48. Through interactive presentations and discussions in these two sessions, the
participants received a good understanding of the current groundwater situation in the study
area. They gained valuable knowledge on the availability and use of groundwater in the area as
well as the potential opportunities to expandthe cultivable area during the dry season using

groundwater. The participants actively shared their knowledge and experiences linking acquired
information from the sessions and suggestions were made for future research.

49. The major recommendations from this stakeholder meeting were:

• Expand this study to a basin scale to assess the downstream impacts from upstream GW
• Continue the monitoring of GW for a few more agricultural seasons.
• Repeat the same study in another irrigation system as well as in a rainfed agricultural
system to investigate the GW behavior.

4.4.2 Meeting to Disseminate the Results of the PDA on 29 August 2017

50. The participants in this meeting were the staff attached to the Resident Project
Managers’ Office (RPM) Tambutthegama of Mahaweli Authority of Sri Lanka (MASL), field staff
from all the MASL blocks in System H, selected farmers from the study area and officials from
the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The objective of this meeting was to share and discuss the
findings of this study with the field officials and the farmers in the area.

51. The meeting consisted of presentations covering various project activities and the results
of the PDA by the project team members. Deputy Resident Project Manager (DRPM) for Water
Management of the Tambutthegama RPM office introduced the objectives of the PDA, and
emphasized the importance of the findings to agricultural production in the region. During other
presentations, the history of groundwater usage in the country and the current opportunities in
the area with sustainable use of groundwater were explained. Further, the consequences of
unsustainable groundwater use were discussed extensively with examples from other countries,
such as India and Pakistan. The key IWMI staff who worked for the PDA, representative from
ADB and the academic staff member from the Rajarata University who did the water quality
testing were the resource persons.

52. Following the presentations, the forum was opened for questions and discussion to
brainstorm the key findings from this study and elucidate responses from participants,
considering their extensive working experience in the field. Key deliberations focused on
existing groundwater use, key role of the project in creating a well inventory of system H, and
the importance of sustainable use of groundwater. Figure 16 is the meeting, where some
farmers and officials discussed the issues related to agriculture and water availability in the
study area.

Figure 16. Farmers and MASL officials expressing their opinions in the session.

53. During these discussions, the farmers and officials actively described the issues and
constraints they come across in the field. The main constraint put forth by farmers and officials
was inadequate water availability for crops during key growth stages. The participants also
highlighted that this meeting and discussion increased their understanding of groundwater.

54. The farmers were excited about the prospects of utilizing groundwater safely without
draining the water table to alarming levels. The quantitative information of the additional area
that could be irrigated with groundwater and the associated economic considerations were well
received by the meeting participants.

55. The study results reiterated that the smallholder farmers in the area could potentially
extend their cropping area augmented by canal-recharged groundwater and earn an additional
income. The participants (officials and farmers) made the following recommendations during
their interactions with project team members:

• Loan scheme to install micro-sprinkler systems.

• Organize awareness programs to disseminate the knowledge of new technology.
• Introduction of crops that require less water to cope with the inadequate water.
• Efficient mechanism to share the information on water availability.
• Direct contacts to markets.

4.5 Formulation of recommendations to manage, and minimize hazards
associated with the use of groundwater in irrigated areas

56. The results of this study provide important insights about temporal and spatial
distribution of water quantity and quality in the study area in Mahaweli System H. The real time
groundwater data monitoring began in late September 2016 and the water volume estimations
were conducted from October 2016 to August 2017. The major recommendations to manage
and minimize the hazards associated with the use of groundwater are given below.

1. Regular monitoring of groundwater quality: Currently, farmers do not have any

understanding of the groundwater quality in the area. According to the results of this
study, overall, groundwater quality indicators show favorable conditions for irrigation use.
However, regular monitoring of water quality is essential as excess use of fertilizer can
affect the groundwater quality. According to the water quality analysis presented in
section 3.2, groundwater at some locations indicate an unfavorable quality during some
periods of the year (Figures 12 and 14). For instance, higher pH and RSC values
indicated at locations such as WQ1 and WQ6 during January and February 2017 can
spred widely and will have adverse effects on the groundwater quality and the
agriculture in the area. Further, it is important to organize awareness programs to
educate farmers in the study area on the negative impacts of excess chemical usage
and related effects on water quality.

2. Capping GW extraction: The study revealed that GW level has an interim connection
with surface water supplies. Too much depletion of GW will require more canal supplies
to bring back this equilibrium, which may affect the oncoming season. Therefore, it is
important to capture only the given season water that is percolated/ seeped into the GW
reservoir. This will require regular monitoring of groundwater levels at some
representative locations in the study area. As demonstrated in this study, this can be
done by establishing an automated groundwater monitoring system to analyse real time
groundwater data and to convey the warning messages to farmers and the officials
whenever water depths have dropped below a certain threshold. Further, awareness
programmes on the consequences of over irrigation must be organized to educate

3. Introduction of technology to control excess water use: . According to the survey

conducted during the initial part of the study in Mahaweli System H, farmers who use
micro sprinklers to irrigate their crops use 27% less water compared to the conventional
systems. Such technologies must be promoted in the area to control excess water use,
which would also help increase income from agriculture. Water pumping is directly
proportional to energy consumption and thus affect their net income from agriculture.
However, such technologies are not popular among farmers currently. According to the
survey conducted in the study area, only 8% of the farms uses micro sprinkler systems.
The major reason for this could be the initial investment cost. This requires further

4. Renewable energy vs fossil fuel use: Currently farmers mainly use diesel pumps to
extract groundwater. Promoting this in large scale may cause soil and water pollution
with oil spills. Such damage can be reduced by the promotion of renewable resources,
such as solar energy. However, according to our discussions with the farmers in the
study area, the major obstacle currently experienced to move into solar energy based

systems is the relatively higher initial investment cost compared to conventional diesel
pumps. This can be addressed by introducing credit facilities through banks and subsidy
rates for these equipment..

5. Promotion of non-traditional crops: The average farm size in the area is 1 hectare
and is identified as one of the major obstacles for commercial farming. Further, the
farmers were asked to cultivate only 50% of their lands during Yala by MASL officials. As
stated in Section 3.2, a substantial volume of water is available in the shallow aquifer
during Yala. Therefore, MASL officials must encourage farmers to cultivate more area
with non-traditional, high yielding, high value crops that generate more income.

6. Introduction to markets: One major point raised by the farmers during the stakeholder
meeting was access to the market. However, it is not only access but also about the
understanding of demand variations in the market. Often, farmers select their crops
based on the demand the saw during the previous season or previous year, without
having a knowledge of real time market prices and demand. This issue could be
addressed by providing access to market information. This can be arranged by a two-
way communication system setup through mobile phone networks between farmers and
the major market places.

7. Promoting conjunctive use of water: Though the farmers are informally using
groundwater to supplement surface water supplies for their crops, this approach is
considered mainly as a surface water irrigation system. However, according to the
results of this study, a substantial volume of groundwater is available and is replenished
by the water seepages from the canal. Therefore, promoting conjunctive use of water for
irrigation is a promising option to improve the water availability for their crops during
Yala. Further, rainfall also can be considered as an additional component of the water
supply to the area. To implement this, a network of rainfall, groundwater levels and soil
moisture monitoring stations are required to keep a tab on the status of the area
regularly in terms of water availability.

Allen R.G., Pereira L.S., Raes D., Smith M .(1998) Crop evapotranspiration: guidelines for
computing crop water requirements. FAO irrigation and drainage paper, 56. FAO, 300 pp

Ayers R.S. and Westcot D.W. (1994). FAO Irrigation and Drainage paper, 29 Rev. 1, Reprinted
1989, 1994, ISBN 92-5-102263-1, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United
Nations Rome, 1985.

Richards,L.A. (1954). Diagnosis and improvement of saline and Alkali soils. USDA handbook

Sutharsiny A., Pathmarajah S., Thushyanthy M. and Meththika V. (2012). Characterization of

Irrigation Water Quality of Chunnakam Aquifer in Jaffna Peninsula, Tropical Agricultural
Research. 23(3): 237 – 248.


Annex 1. Real time groundwater monitoring system

This instrument measures the depth to groundwater level from the ground surface every minute.
This data is transmitted to the server located at Leecom Scada Systems (PVT) LTD* and the
processed data on a daily and hourly scale can be downloaded through the web link www. Figure A1.1 shows a schematic diagram of the instrument and its transmission link
(groundwater monitoring system).

Figure A1.1. Schematic diagram of automatic groundwater monitoring and transmitting system

Figure A1.2 illustrates the user friendly interface facilitating real time access to groundwater
data. This interface is capable of displaying hourly variation in the depth to groundwater at the
ten locations, where automatic monitoring equipment was installed. The interface also displays
salinity levels at two wells (well numbers 5 and 10) where two automatic sensors to monitor
electrical conductivity were installed. Figure A1.2 shows the interface to access the real time

Figure A1.2. User interface to access the groundwater depth data

The user interface also has an option to display daily and monthly summaries of the data.
Figure A1.2 shows the daily data for August 2017. The horizontal axis of the graph displays time
while the vertical axis displays the depth to groundwater from surface level in centimeters. The
data can be downloaded as excel files for further analysis.

* Leecom Scada Systems (PVT) LTD is a local private company specialized in manufcatuing and installing remote
data collection equipment

Annex 2. Groundwater quality analysis

Groundwater quality at the selected wells were tested during October 2016 to July 2017 and the
variations of water levels during the same period were recorded. Analysis was conducted to
attribute the reasons for the variation of water quality and quantity parameters in the area.
Figure A2.1 shows the selected agro-well locations for water quality testing. Ten agro wells
were selected representing the canal systems, spatial distribution and type of the wells. Some
wells are closer to the Mahaweli water-conveying canal and others are away from them.

Figure A2.1. Location of selected Agro-well for water quality testing in Thalawa block Mahaweli
system H

Water sample collection and analysis

Two water samples each in 250ml sample bottles were taken from each well after rinsing the
bottles thrice with the same water and covered with a lid. Water level, pH and Electrical
conductivity (EC) in the agro wells were measured in situ at each well sampled. Water samples
were collected 10 times 2 during the study period. Collected water samples were analyzed for
CO32-, HCO3- Ca2+, Mg2+, Na+, K+, ammonia nitrogen, Nitrate, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Arsenic,
Cadmium and Lead. In addition to the main water quality parameters related to irrigation, this
study tested the nutrient contents of water and for a few heavy metals. If considerable quantities
of nutrients are found in irrigation water, fertilizer recommendation has to be adjusted according
to the nutrients of the water; and some nutrient in higher doses are also toxic to some plants.
Heavy metals were tested as they are considered a causative factor for CKDu 3 in Sri Lanka.
Results indicate thath metal availability is very low and no serious threat envisaged.

Method of analysis

Standard methods were followed to test the irrigation water quality parameters, shown table

Table A2.1. Methods of analysis of water quality parameters.

Parameter Method and Instrument used

pH and Electrical conductivity (EC) Multi-para meter
CO32-, HCO3- Acid base titration
Ca2+, Mg2+, Na+, K+ ,As, Cd and Pb Used Inductivity Couple Plasma Optical
Emission Spectrophotometer (ICP OES,
methods by Martin, 1994)
Ammonia nitrogen Phenate method (Solorzano, 1969)) used UV
Nitrate nitrogen salicylic acid method (Cataldo et al., 1975),
used UV Spectrophotometer
Phosphorus, (PO43- - P) ascorbic acid method (Olsen et al., 1954),
used UV Spectrophotometer

On 04 -10 – 2016, 11-11-2016, 12-12-2016, 28-01-2017, 17 -02 -2017, 27-03-2017, 21-04-2017, 27-05-
2017, 27-06-2017, 28-07-2017
Chronic Kidney Disease for which the root cause is yet to be identified

Water suitability for irrigation was tested by calculating Sodium Adsorption ratio (SAR), Sodium
Percentage (SP) and Residual Sodium Carbonate (RSC). The ratio of sodium to calcium and
magnesium determines the SAR4.

𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆 = 2+ 2+

The difference of total carbonate and bicarbonate with total Calcium and Magnesium
determines the Residual Sodium Carbonate (RSC) index.

𝑅𝑅𝑅𝑅𝑅𝑅 𝑖𝑖𝑖𝑖𝑖𝑖𝑖𝑖𝑖𝑖 = [𝐻𝐻𝐻𝐻𝐻𝐻3_ + 𝐶𝐶𝐶𝐶32− ] – [[𝐶𝐶𝐶𝐶2+ + 𝑀𝑀𝑀𝑀2+ ]

The rate of water infiltration through the soil mass was measured at the field and soil samples
were collected from four ground locations close to the agro-wells to compute soil bulk density,
true density and porosity. Moreover, in-depth interviews were conducted with farmers to collect
data related to cultivation details, agro-chemical usage, and irrigation practices during the past
two seasons. Rainfall records of the study area during the water quality monitoring periods were

Annex 3. Assessment of soil parameters

The study area is mostly of Reddish Brown Earth (RBE) and its associations with Low Humic
Glay (LHG) soils. The texture of RBE is mostly sandy clay loam. Soil samples for testing were
taken from a soil layer of about 0 – 20 cm thickness. From fallow areas, only three samples
were tested from each site. Bulk density was measured using the co-sampler (Figure A3.1) and
the true density was determined using the Pycnometer method (A3.2). Porosity was calculated
by using equation 1 below.

Porosity = (1 – Bulk density/ True Density) * 100 (1)

All ionic concentrations are expressed in me/l

Figure A3.1. Soil testing conducted by the Rajarata University team

Figure A3.2. Pycnometer used in determining True Density

Measured bulk density, true density and calculated porosity of 4 different sites are shown in
Table A3.1. True density (particle density) of about 2.6 g/cm3 indicates that the sample taken
from all samples are of a mineral soil with relatively low organic matter content. The
percentages of sand, silt, and clay are unknown; however, particle density suggests that the
sample is higher in course-texture sand particles compared with fine-texture silt and clay.

Table 3.1 shows the estimated soil parameters for the four sites where soil samples were
tested. A True Density (particle density) of about 2.6 g/cm3 again is proving that all are mineral
soils with relatively low organic matter content. The percentage of sand, silt, and clay is
unknown. However, the True Density suggests the sample is higher in course-texture sand Deleted:
particles compared with fine-texture silt and clay.

Table A3.1. Bulk density, true density and Porosity at four locations in the study area

Location Bulk density ( g/cm3) True Density ( g/cm3) Porosity (%)

1 1.44 2.67 46.07
2 1.49 2.64 43.56
3 1.52 2.60 41.54
4 1.43 2.70 47.04