Sources of irrigation in India Upsc

Irrigation is a method of providing water to crops by artificial methods. India is not only hot, there is seasonal and irregular rainfall.

To address these problems irrigation is important. Cultivation of annual crops continued high temperature, hydrophytes crops, porous soil, and commercial farming make irrigation essential.

Cropping pattern in India
Agriculture pattern & Cropping pattern in India

Sources of irrigation in India

The methods of irrigation change on location and various factors such as soil, rainfall, perennial and non-perennial river, ground availability, and nature of crops.

Sources of irrigation

a)Canal Irrigation

Canal irrigation is one of the most important sources of irrigation. It accounts for about 24% of the total irrigation in the nation. It is an effective source of irrigation in low-level relief, deep fertile soil, and perennial river areas.

The total area under canal irrigation in India is 15.8 million hectares in 2014. 60% of Canal irrigation is found in the northern plains such as UP, Punjab, Haryana, Bihar, and Rajasthan.

Types of Canal Irrigation

There are two types of Canal Irrigation one is Inundation Canals and another one is Perennial Canals.

Inundation Canals

The water is taken out without any barrage and dam. Useful for diversion of flood and remains operational in the rainy season.

Perennial Canals

Most canal in India falls under Perennial Canals. By Constructing a barrage in the Perennial rivers.

b) Well Irrigation

About 62% of the net irrigated area in India is irrigated by Wells. Well, irrigation is cheap and dependable.

Well, irrigation is popular in areas where tank and canal irrigation is not available. There are two types of Well irrigation. One is Open Well and another one is Tube Well.

1.Open Wells

Open Wells is widely used where there is sufficient groundwater.

Ex: Delta regions of Cauvery, Krishna, Godavari, Mahanadi, and part of Tapti and Narmada Valleys.

2. Tube Wells

Tube wells are used in the areas where the water table is low and the surface is soft. Also drilled in hard rocky terrains.

Ex: Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, and Maharashtra.

3. Tank Irrigation

Tanks are both natural and man-made. A hollow is built on the surface by constructing bunds across the stream, and canals. Tank Irrigation is an old system of irrigation in India.

The Tanks are used to collect water during the rainy season and store it for irrigation and other purposes. It includes Ponds and Lakes. Tank irrigation is popular in peninsular India.

It is popular in peninsular India due to the following reasons:

  • Hard to dig canals and wells in undulating relief and hard rocks.
  • Natural tank formations due to natural depression in the surfaces.
  • Perennial river absence in Peninsular regions.
  • No percolation in Impermeable rock structure.
  • People, Population and agricultural fields scattered in various areas.

Table: Leading State in Tank Irrigation

StateArea in Lakh Hectares(2013-2014)
1Tamil Nadu3.78
2Andra Pradesh3.40
3Madya Pradesh2.64
States that use Tank Irrigation System

Modern Sources of irrigation

In India Drip, Poly House Central Pivot irrigation and sprinklers are used.

Drip system

Watering in drops near the root of the plant. Useful for Big trees and horticulture.

PER DROP MORE CROP(Improving water use efficiency) – Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY)

Micro Irrigation scheme sponsored by the Government of India to promote drip and sprinkler irrigation to save water.

Andra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat, and Tamil Nadu accounts for 78% of total micro Irrigation in the country.

Rain Gun

As the name suggests throw water like rain using a Water gun or rain gun. These sprinklers are used for crops having a height of 4 feet (1.22 m) or more.

For example Maize, Sugarcane.

Center-Pivot Irrigation or Central Pivot Irrigation

It is also called a Waterwheel or Circle Irrigation. This equipment has a sprinkler that rotates and waters the crops.

Multipurpose River Valley Projects

Management of water using scientific methods such as the construction of dams across rivers. Multipurpose river valley project is multipurpose applications such as the combination of Irrigation with Hydro Power Plants.

Also used for Controlling floods, fisheries, Industrial needs, Navigation, etc.

Table: Multipurpose River Valley Projects
Multipurpose River Valley Projects used for primary for agriculture and combination of agriculture and hydro power plant
Multipurpose River Valley Projects


The main sources of irrigation in India include Canals, Tanks, and Wells. Also in India, there are several other systems which include rainwater harvesting, dams, etc. The latest one is the drip irrigation system, which saves a lot of water.


  1. Tube well irrigation is highest in which state?

Uttar Pradesh State has the highest number of tube wells in India.

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* * All the Notes in this blog, are referred from Tamil Nadu State Board Books and Samacheer Kalvi Books. Kindly check with the original Tamil Nadu state board books and Ncert Books.
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