Water Resources of Pakistan Water is the basic

Water Resources of Pakistan

Water is the basic human need and as we know a human
can live up to 80 days without food, but only a few days without water. Water
is the basic need of every living thing on earth as we know no living thing can
live without water. However, its use in unbalanced and unmanaged way has made
it reduced its quantity to a great extent. Pakistan is now facing a big
challenge to meet the requirements for its population and water is becoming
scarce in Pakistan. In Pakistan, about 96% of its available water is being
utilized for agriculture and the remaining 4% for domestic, industrial and
other purposes. Per capita water availability has decreased from 5300 m3 in 1951
to 850 m3 by the year 2013.

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River Basin

The Indus basin covers about 386,000
square miles area and touches China, India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan).
catchment of Indus Basin contains some of the largest glaciers in the world.
Glaciers are spread in an area of about 2,250 km2 and most of the water comes
from there in the summer. Its source is Tibetan plateau and Indus river
initially flows in north west direction before it bends into south to flow
south west making its way through Pakistan to the Arabian sea. Snow and glacier
water is the main source of input for this river system as there isn’t much
rainfall in this region. The lower reaches are very braided, meaning the river
has many channels, and flow is slow though the waterless plains region where
evaporation is also very high. The river ends in a low triangular area of
alluvial deposits where it divides before entering the sea (i.e. a delta) which
includes numerous mangroves. These mangroves are an important reserve not only
for the wildlife and maintaining diversity of plants and animals in the
environment but also for the millions of people who depend on them including
the fishermen living there. The whole system relies strongly on glacial water,
making it vulnerable to change particularly the increased temperatures which can
change the speed at which the glaciers will melt down which means river-flow in
the Indus will be largely affected.


Major Water Resources
in Pakistan

Major water resources
in Pakistan are rainfall, ponds, rivers, glaciers, lakes, streams, wells,
surface water from rivers and rainfall, etc. So, the water is more than enough
for irrigation and other purposes. The water from these dams and reservoirs is
not only used for irrigation and supplying water for daily consumption, but
also used for hydroelectric power generation.


There are two
major sources of rainfall in Pakistan i.e. the Monsoons and the Western
Disturbances. About 70 percent of the annual Monsoon rainfall occurs from July
to September. Pakistan has both arid and semi-arid zones. The entire Indus plain
receives an average rainfall of about 212mm and 53mm respectively. The rainfall
changes as we move from the north and northeast directions to the south of the
country. The areas that receive some appreciable amount of rainfall during
summer as well as in winter season are northern canal commands of the Punjab
and the canal command areas of KPK. The following graph is based on a research
of 10 years of rainfall in some cities of Pakistan.

Agricultural Statistics of Pakistan (Various Issues).


Pakistan is
the country which is blessed with the largest number of glaciers on the planet
meaning that the only places that has more glaciers than Pakistan is North and
South Pole. Around 13,500 square km area of Pakistan contains glaciers which
would be around 2-3 percent of Indus Basin and that is the the place where most
of the run off occur from in the hot weather. In Karakoram Range, the total
glacial length is 160 km. About 37 percent of the Karakoram area is under its
glacier, Himalayas has 17 percent and European Alps has 22 percent.  It is estimated that the total glacial area of
the upper catchments of Indus is about 2,250 sq. km, which is mainly from most
of the river runoff in the summer season. The snow fed Kabul river starts from
Unal Pass in southern Hindukush is at an elevation of 3,000 meters above the
sea level. After flowing in eastern Afghanistan, it enters Pakistan from north
of Khyber Pass. The Jhelum River originates from Kashmir at lower elevation
than that of Indus River (Pakistan Water Strategy Report).


and Dams

Pakistan has a
lot of rivers that are tributaries to Indus. The five main rivers which join
Indus from eastern side are Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej, beside three
minor rivers are the Haro, Soan and Siran. 
There are number of small rivers which join the River Indus from the
west side, in which biggest river is Kabul and others are Kunar, Punj, Kora.
The Gomal Kurram, Tai, Kohat Tank and several other small streams join the
Indus River from the right side. The Table 1 transpires that maximum flow in Indus River during the
Kharif season (April to September) was 55.087 MAF and at minimum flow was
42.208 MAF and on the average, was 51.3 MAF during the period 2002–07. The
overall maximum flows during kharif season of six rivers including Indus,
Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Sutlaj and Kabul was 118.9 MAF in 2005-06 and minimum
flow was 80.226 in 2004-05 and on the average, it was 101.9 MAF during the
period 200207.Similarly, for the Rabi season (October to Mach) the maximum flow
in case of Indus River was 10.0 MAF in 2006-07 and minimum flow was 8.5 MAF in
2003-04. On average, it was 9.1 MAF during 2002-07. Whereas, overall maximum
flow for the Rabi season for all the major rivers was 29.2 MAF and minimum was
21.6 MAF in 2002-03 and on the average, was 25.1 MAF during 2002-07. 

             Table 1

IRSA, Islamabad.


The resource
of surface water is the Indus System based on the river inflow restrained at the
rim station. In the setting of Indus Basin System, a rim station is demarcated
as a reservoir or a barrage on river just when the river system enters the
territory of Pakistan.  The rim stations
for the Indus System Rivers are the Kalabagh Barrage for the main Indus River,
Marala Barrage for the Chenab River, Marala Reservoir for the Jhelum River, and
Sulemanki and Balloki barrages for the Sutlej and Ravi rivers.  The Indus System and its tributaries carry
about the 154 MAF of water in a year. Rivers that are on the West side, hold
145 MAF water and rivers on the East side comprise of water of about 10
MAF.  From the above total amount of
water, 105MAF is used for irrigation, 50 MAF water goes into the seepage or sea
or vaporizes in the way and it can be seen as a loss or the water also spills
in the flood. The overall flow of the Indus river changes on the annual basis.

The direction
of water that is present in the Indus river is changed to the present canals
through reservoirs or barrages at that place. Water from the main system is
then sent or diverted into the branches and from there water goes directly into
fields and is used for the irrigation.  The
canal system is the best irrigation system till today in the whole wide world
and it was made by the Britishers during their reign. The irrigation system
comprises of 16 barrages, 3 major reservoirs, 2 head-works, 2 siphons across
major rivers, 44 canal systems, (23 in Punjab, 14 in Sindh, 5 in NWFP and 2 in Baluchistan)
12 inter river link canals and more than 107,000 water courses. The canals are
around 56,000 km long. Along with the above land system also ground water is
utilized. About 42 MAF water is pumped out with the use of tube wells in
Pakistan. (Pakistan Water Strategy Report).

in Pakistan 

Groundwater is
one of the main sources of water in Pakistan. About 90 percent of the fresh
water is ground water and it can also be easily accessed with the use of right
machinery. In Pakistan, a great amount of groundwater is available throughout
the whole country. But because of the frequent use of water and because of less
rain the quantity of groundwater has decreased to 41 percent in last few years.
About 80 percent of Punjab province is blessed with unconfined aquifer and
about 30 percent of Sindh province is blessed with groundwater. Water is pumped
out and is used for irrigation and drinking and other purposes. The water which
is not clean or not fit for drinking is used for the land irrigation after it
is mixed with the canal water but not alone. In Sindh province, where quality
of water is good it mixed with canal water and is used for irrigation and this
has been going on for many years now and the use of tube wells came into being
after a few years or a decade of independence and a large number of tube wells
have been installed and the number is around half a million. Pakistan take out
about 55 MAF of ground water and utilizes it. (Pakistan Water Strategy


There is a
historical and political background behind building of dams in the Pakistan.
See, there were only three dams in the Pakistan when we it got independence and
country was short of water and power. After a short period of time India also
stopped the water for the Pakistan. Country was in dire need of water. At the
time of independence there was on dam in Punjab in Mianwali district, one dam
was in Baluchistan and there was also a third dam. So, in 1955, Pakistan
started building dams due to coming short of power. Warsak dam was built near
Peshawar on the Kabul River. When India stopped the water for Pakistan later,
country face big problems and its canal system was defected and to cover it
country needed to build dams for the water storage. So, then the Mangla and
Tarbela dams came into being. These two dams have the capacity of roughly 17.5
MAF, as part of its Indus Basin Replacement Works. Also a number of water
supply dams were created and were undertaken and are still in use. 

2                                                                                                                                 Source:   MTDF (2005-10).

The above
table is the list which tells about the total capacity of the reservoirs such
as Tarbela, Chashma and Mangla which is around 18 MAF. From 2003, because of
the sedimentation around 25 percent of water capacity is lost or decreased
which isn’t good for the country. Accord to a report by MTDF, by the year 2010
the amount will increase to 35 percent and country needs to do something about

Google Maps

Pakistan’s Vision of Water Resource Management. 

Tarbela and
Chashma dam are located on the Indus river and Mangla dam is located on the
Jhelum river. All the canals and their tributaries are around 64,000 km long
where total water course is 1,621,000 km long. The water from the rivers is
diverted into canals through the barrages which are a type of weirs. Those
canals derive the water into their branches and vice versa and this way water
reaches the irrigation land and land is cultivated. Though this system water
reaches the channels and watercourses deliver water into the land. The water
from the watercourses does not directly go into the land but the turns based on
the time schedule are set for each farmer or land owner. This system is called

Google Earth



National Water Requirements

water storage capacity is just for 30 days against the minimum requirement of
120 days while most of the developed countries have 1-2 years water storage

As we know
that no living thing can live without the water whether it is man, animals or
pants. Water is the main need of every living thing and the country of Pakistan
has a large area of ground water and also a good river system present and
working in it. Water comes from the mountains and glaciers and then flows from
there to the sea and in the way, it’s used and utilized though the canals and
rivers and barrages and the modern technology. The total area of Pakistan is
around 75 million hectares, and around 22 million hectares area of Pakistan is
used for irrigation purposes. Agricultural Statistics of Pakistan (2005-06)

At the time of
independence, the per capita water availability was comparatively very high as
compared to now. Per capita water availability has been declining at an
alarming rate, from 5300 cubic meters in 1951 to about 1200 cubic meters in
2000. Water availability data is given in Table.

Draft State of Environment Report 2005.

In the table
below, the total water requirement, its availability and overall short fall is
given for the years 2004 and 2005 and compared with 2025, which is quite a
large amount and the country needs to build dams or will have a large
deficiency and will face major problems in irrigating the land.

Ten Year Perspective Development Plan 2001-11, Planning Commission.