Scientific challenge: 

As in many parts of Peninsular India, the key scientific challenge in the Cauvery basin is to represent adequately the many local, small-scale water management interventions in larger-scale decision-making.

UPSCAPE is a 3-year £2M research project, part of the Newton-Bhabha “Sustaining Water Resources Programme” funded jointly by the UK Natural Environment Research Council and the India Ministry of Earth Sciences. The project involves six organisations from India and the UK.

Cauvery River, India

Project overview: 

The Cauvery river basin in southern India is shared between the States of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and has long presented water management challenges at local, regional and basin scales. UPSCAPE plans a range of engagement activities to ensure the project meets the needs of the many different stakeholder groups within the basin, and contributes to sustainable policies on river basin management and groundwater management across India.

The outcomes

  • Improve understanding of how small-scale anthropogenic drivers of change cumulatively impact on water availability at the basin-scale.
  • Develop novel methods for upscaling improved local-scale process understanding in basinwide integrated water resources models.
  • Investigate the key hydrological processes operating in rural Peninsular India catchments, applying coupled surface and groundwater models to assess how local interventions affect water availability.
  • Explore how urban and periurban development in Peninsular India impact on groundwater recharge and surface hydrology.
  • Demonstrate how the new science and integrative systems-level modelling can be encapsulated into water resource management planning in Peninsular India.

Local water users (farmers, communities) will directly benefit from a new understanding of the impact of small-scale interventions on the local hydrological conditions.

Basin authorities (e.g. Cauvery River Authority, Karnataka Government’s Water Shed Development Department) will benefit from new knowledge of how to upscale key small-scale processes to inform how the hydrological system functions at a basin-scale.

National institutes (e.g. Central Groundwater Board, National Water Development Agency) will benefit from improved hydrological modelling frameworks for large-scale Indian catchments. The academic community will benefit from increased India-UK research collaboration and exchanges.



  • Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), India
  • Natural Environment Research Council


  • Ashoka Trust (ATREE)
  • British Geological Survey (BGS)
  • Indian Institute of Science Bangalore
  • International Crops Research (ICRISAT)
  • University of Dundee