The Bengal Water Machine: Quantified freshwater capture in Bangladesh

Mohammad Shamsudduha and Richard G. Taylor and Md Izazul Haq and Sara Nowreen and Anwar Zahid and Kazi Matin Uddin Ahmed
The Bengal Water Machine: Quantified freshwater capture in Bangladesh, Science, Volume 377, 6612,1315-1319, 2022





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Global food security depends on the sustainability of irrigated agriculture. Rising groundwater withdrawals from seasonally humid, alluvial plains across tropical Asia have enabled dry-season rice cultivation. This groundwater pumpage increases available subsurface storage that under favorable conditions amplifies groundwater replenishment during the subsequent monsoon. We empirically quantified this nature-based solution to seasonal freshwater storage capture described as the “Bengal Water Machine,” revealing its potential and limitations. On the basis of a million piezometric observations from 465 monitoring wells, we show that the collective operation of ~16 million smallholder farmers in the Bengal Basin of Bangladesh from 1988 to 2018 has induced cumulative freshwater capture that volumetrically (75 to 90 cubic kilometers) is equivalent to twice the reservoir capacity of the Three Gorges Dam.

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