Irrigation in India includes a network of major and minor canals from Indian rivers, groundwater well based systems, tanks, and other rainwater harvesting projects for agricultural activities of these groundwater system is the largest. In 2013-14, only about 47.7% of total agricultural land in India was reliably irrigated. The largest canal in India is Indira Gandhi Canal, which is about 650 km long. About 2/3rd cultivated land in India is dependent on monsoons. Irrigation in India helps improve food security, reduce dependence on monsoons, improve agricultural productivity and create rural job opportunities. Dams used for irrigation projects help produce electricity and transport facilities, as well as provide drinking water supplies to a growing population, control floods and prevent droughts.

Projects Classification:

Irrigation Projects in India are classified on three major aspects into:  

1. Minor Irrigation Projects -  upto 2000 ha ( 5000 acres)

2. Medium Irrigation Projects above - 2000 ha (5000 ac) and upto 10000 ha (25000  acres)

3. Major Irrigation Projects -  above 10000 ha (25000 acres)

Since 1950, irrigation works were classified on the basis of cost incurred for the projects' implementation, governing and dissemination.,

However, the Planning Commission of India adopted the classification of projects on the basis of culturable command area(CCA).

The various irrigations structures are  majorly classfied in to two catagories :

1. Head works :

The structures constructed for storing or diverting water like dams , reservoirs and tanks.

2. CM & CD works :

The structures constructed on the system of canals, which carry the water from source( head works) to fields, at the place of crossing with other streams, canals, roads etc.,  like Aqueducts, Super Passages, Bridges, Syphons, level crossings.

When the depth of cutting of canals are more generally above 30m Tunnels are preferred to carry the water.

Irrigation is generally preferred by gravity for cost economics. But if the area is upland then pumping is provided by constructing pump houses and delivery cisterns even though it is costly.

The canals are classfied into 5 catagories depending upon its capacity to carry:

1. Main Canal :  any canal taking off from source irrespective of discharge

2. Branch Canal  : > 500 cusecs ( 14.15 cumecs)

3. Major Distributary Canal: 1 cusec (0.028 cumecs) to 500 cusecs (14.15 cumecs)

4. Minor Distributary Canal: serving an area of > 100 acres (40.47 ha)

5. Field Channel : serving an area of < 100 acres (40.47 ha).

In India, the Irrigation structures in various States carry out the works following the standards, Manuals and codes prepared by organizations such as Bureau of Indian Standards(BIS), Indian Roads Congress (IRC), Central Public Works Department (CPWD),Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) , Central Board of Irrigation and Power (CBIP) , United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) etc.,

It is a common practice to follow International Specifications like BS, ASTM, AASHTOetc where Indian Standards are not available.

1.  Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS)

BIS (Formerly Indian Standards Institution) is the national Standards body of India. BIS is a founder member of International Organisation for Standardization (ISO). It represents India in the International Organisation for Standards (ISO), the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC)and the World Standards Service Network (WSSN).One of the major functions of the Bureau is the formulation, recognition and promotion of the Indian Standards.  BIS.

2.  Indian Roads Congress (IRC)

Indian Roads Congress (IRC) was set up by the Government of India in 1934 with theobjective of promoting and encouraging the science for building and maintenance ofroads. In the past several years IRC has published several standards, specificationsand codes of practice, related to road and bridge works. IRC also publish plans andspecifications for the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH). The mostimportant among those is the Specifications for Road and Bridge Works (5th revision2013).

3. Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) Specifications

Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) is an apex body under the Government of India. It is responsible for the planning, development and maintenance of National Highways in India. The standard specifications for road and bridge works in the country are evolved by MoRTH.

4. Central Public Works Department (CPWD)

The Central Public Works Department of India, commonly referred to as CPWD, is aGovernment of India owned authority in charge of public sector works. The CPWD,which came into existence in 1854, builds and maintains public buildings. CPWD also has developed many codes, manuals, schedules, technical specifications, design manuals and other necessary technical publications for effective working.

5.  Central Board of Irrigation And Power (CBIP)

Central Board of Irrigation And Power (CBIP), a Premier Institution set up by the Government of India in the year 1927, rendering dedicated services to professional organisations, engineers and individuals for the last 90 years, resulting in accelerated development in Water Resources, Energy and Allied Fields, including renewable energy, in the country and abroad. CBIP has grown into an eminent organisation of international importance while serving the nation equally with great distinction. CBIP is Indian chapter for 10 international organisations related to power and water resources sectors.

6.  British Standards (BS)

British Standards are produced by the British Standards Institute (BSI) groupestablished in 1901 under the National Standards Body (NSB) for the UK.

7.  American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM)

ASTM was formed in 1898 by Chemists and Engineers from the PennsylvaniaRailroad, USA. In 2001, the Society became known as ASTM International. 


The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is an independent, non-governmental organization, the members of which are the standards organisation of the 163 member countries. ISO's main products are international standards. ISO alsopublishes technical reports, specifications, and guides.

Some ISO standards are mentioned below for reference:

ISO 14001: This is the internationally recognized standard for Environmental Management Systems (EMS). ISO 14001 specifies a process for controlling and improving a company's environmental performance.

ISO 9001: This specifies requirements for a quality management system where an organization need to demonstrate its ability to consistently provide product that meets customer and applicable statutory and regulatory requirements.

9.United States Bureau of Reclamation

The United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR), and formerly the United States Reclamation Service (not to be confused with the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement), is a federal agency under the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees water resource management, specifically as it applies to the oversight and operation of the diversion, delivery, and storage projects that it has built throughout the western United States for irrigation, water supply, and attendant hydroelectric power generation. Currently the USBR is the largest wholesaler of water in the country, bringing water to more than 31 million people, and providing one in five Western farmers with irrigation water for 10 million acres of farmland, which produce 60% of the nation's vegetables and 25% of its fruits and nuts. The USBR is also the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the western United States.

10. Central water commission (CWC)

CWC is charged with the general responsibility of initiating, coordinating and furthering in consultation with the State Governments concerned, schemes for the control, conservation and utilization of water resources in the respective State for the purpose of flood management, irrigation, drinking water supply and water power generation. The Commission, if so required, can undertake the construction and execution of any such scheme.

In exercise of the above responsibilities following are the main functions of CWC:

To carry out Techno-economic appraisal of Irrigation, flood control & multi-purpose projects proposed by the State Governments.

To collect, compile, publish and analyze the hydrological and hydrological data relating to major rivers in the country, consisting of rainfall, run-off and temperature, etc. and to act as the central bureau of information in respect of these matters.

To collect, maintain and publish statistical data relating to water resources and its utilization including quality of water throughout India and to act as the central bureau of information relating to water resources.

To provide flood forecasting services to all major flood prone inter-state river basins of India through a network of 175 flood forecasting stations.

Monitoring of selected major and medium irrigation projects, to ensure the achievement of physical and financial targets. Monitoring of projects under Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP), and Command Development (CAD) programme has also been included in its field of activities.

To advise the Government of India and the concerned State Governments basin-wise development of water resources

To undertake necessary surveys and investigations as and when so required prepare designs and schemes for the development of river valleys in respect of power generation, irrigation by gravity flow or lift, flood management and erosion control, anti-water logging measures, drainage and drinking water supply.

To undertake construction work of any river valley development scheme on behalf of the Government of India or State Government concerned.

9. To advise and assist, when so required, the State Governments (Commissions, Corporations or Boards that are set up) in the investigation, surve1 preparation of river valley and power development schemes for particular and regions.

To advise the Government of India in respect of Water Resources Development regarding rights and disputes between different States which affect any issues for the conservation and utilization and any matter that may be referred Commission in connection with river valley development.

To impart training to in-service engineers from Central and State Organizations in various aspects of water resource development.

To initiate studies on socio-agro-economic and ecological aspects of irrigation projects for the sustained development of irrigation.

To conduct and coordinate research on the various aspects of river development schemes such as flood management, irrigation, navigation, power development, etc., and the connected structural and design features.

To promote modern data collection techniques such as remote sensing technology for water resources development, flood forecasting and development of related computer software.

To conduct studies on dam safety aspects for the existing dams and stand related instrumentation for dam safety measures.

To carry out morphological studies to assess river behaviour, bank erosion/coastal erosion problems and advise the Central and State Governments on all such matters.

To promote and create mass awareness regarding the progress and achievements made by the country in the water resources development, use and conservation.

11. Central Water and Power Research Station  (CWPRS)

The Central Water and Power Research Station (CWPRS), Pune, as it is known today, was established in 1916 by the then Bombay Presidency as a "Special Irrigation Cell" with a limited mandate to modify irrigation practice to meet agricultural requirements. Recognising its role in the systematic study of various phases of water flow, including floods, the institution was taken over by the Government of India in 1936. Due to considerable increase in its activites with development of water resources projects, the Research Station was shifted to Khadakwalsa, about 16 km southwest of Pune, with a larger campus in 1925.

With the dawn of independence and launching of planned development of the nation's water resources, CWPRS became the principal central agency to cater to the R&D needs of projects in the fields of water and energy resources development and water-borne transport. Today, CWPRS, a part of the Union Ministry of Water Resources, is one of the foremost organisations in the world in the field of hydraulics and allied research. CWPRS provides specialised services through physical and mathematical model studies in river training and flood control, hydraulic structures, harbours, coastal protection, foundation engineering, construction materials, pumps and turbines, ship hydrodynamics, hydraulic design of bridges, environmental studies, earth sciences, and cooling water intakes. The studies conducted by CWPRS are able to provide hydraulically sound and economically viable solutions to various problems associated with projects on water resources, energy and water-borne transport including coastal and harbour engineering. CWPRS has offered its services to a number of projects in the neighborhood countries as well as countries in Middle East and Africa.