Since India gained Independence, the Krishna basin has seen an increasing mobilization of its water resources. Warnings of basin closure (minimal flow to the ocean) emerge during dry periods. Basin water development and local rural dynamics have led to a degradation of downstream ecosystems manifesting itself by salinizing soil and groundwater, increasing pollution, making mangroves disappear, and desiccating wetlands. Reversing this evolution requires the formal recognition of the environment as a water user in its own right and the implementation of an environmental water provision.

This report is a case study on the Krishna River Basin in South India. The basin has witnessed intense water development resulting in downstream environmental degradation. The observed decline in discharge to the ocean sends a strong signal: there is only little scope for further water supply development, and further taming the Krishna waters will exacerbate environmental degradation.

This paper shows that, while total water available in the Lower Krishna Basin is decreasing, changes in the waterscape of the basin are being shaped, to a large extent, by local users. This study underlines that it is not only the availability of the physical resource that is crucial in explaining the evolution of water use but, as water has become a disputed and highly politicized object, waterscapes are also strongly shaped by the social and political conditions of a region (a state for example), the boundaries of which often exceed the area where water is effectively used.