The rich tradition

India has a rich history of water harvesting. The type of water harvesting structure in a region depends on its geography and rainfall distribution. These include surface water systems such as lakes, talabs, nadis and groundwater extracting systems such as wells, kundis and johads. These practices have often saved drought-affected regions from famine. Some of these traditional watersystems date back to 10th century.

The Paliwals, a Brahmin community which made its home in Rajasthan's Pali area around that time were adept water managers. They devised a rainwater-harvesting technique suited for winter crops. The community combined water harvesting with moisture conservation in depression zones where water could accumulate. Such zones had well-managed surrounding catchments.

This system was a self-contained unit, khadin. Here, the water managers worked assiduously to keep the ratio of farmland and catchment area at 1:11. This ensured that critical moisture was maintained. In their khadins, the Paliwals started wheat cultivation that required only 6 inches of rainfall: wheat crops require 18 inches.

There was another community, known for its tradition of water harvesting: the Meghwals of Jaisalmer.

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