Jaltol: Addressing the capacity bottleneck in rural water security


Jaltol is an open source QGIS plugin tool that makes water budget estimation easy

By Anjali Neelakantan, Craig Dsouza and Surabhi Singh

At CSEI, we have been closely reviewing water security plans to understand the components that go into it. One of the components of the water security plan is a water budget.

Water budgets provide an assessment of the water situation in the geographical area under study. Grassroots communities ideally use that as the basis for determining the kind of interventions they want to put in place.

Inflow and outflow of water in Kandiankoil village in 2015

From our review of water security plans and based on conversations with grassroots communities, we realised that there were a number of challenges:

  1. A capacity gap at the community level in preparing hydrologically sound water budgets. Water budgets require a high level of expertise which communities often don’t have, which makes them rely on other institutions to fill this gap.
  2. The water budgets from different organisations are non-comparable as communities often mix up stock and flow, and blue and green water components.

These insights led us to brainstorm about how to overcome the capacity gap at the community level, and specifically how digital tools can help. Watch this video to understand the need for digital tools in rural water security.

Need for Digital Tools in Rural Water Security

As part of this effort, we developed a water budget tool that allows users to develop water budgets based on secondary and remote sensing data. Data for both inflow and outflow for the water budgets are usually collected from primary or secondary sources by the implementing organisation. However, we have used another secondary source of data — remote sensing data — to compute water balances. These are then used to assess whether a geographical region under study has a water deficit or a surplus as a first step towards intervention planning.

To help communities easily access secondary data spread across multiple websites, portals and formats, we developed “a QGIS plugin” called “Jaltol”.

QGIS is a free and open-source Geographic Information System (GIS) software application that supports viewing, editing and analysis of geospatial data. The plug-in is a simple piece of code (an “Add-on”) that gets installed in the toolbar in QGIS and allows the user to download relevant datasets and combine them to develop a water budget for their local watershed.

This QGIS plugin will provide communities and decision making institutions with a complete view of the watershed for a particular geographical area, allowing them to make more informed decisions about water management. It calculates annual water balance for the chosen geographical area (as defined by boundary shapefiles).

One of the main features of this tool is that we draw the following data from multiple sources to estimate the water budget for any year over the last two decades. And we provide them all on one platform for easy use!

  • Rainfall data from IMD
  • Actual evapotranspiration data (SSEBop) from USGS
  • Change in soil moisture storage (SMAP) from NASA
  • Change in surface water storage (JRC Global Surface Water Explorer) from ESA
  • Change in groundwater storage from Central Groundwater Board
  • Land use land cover maps for a few areas from LANDSAT (7 & 8) Imagery (1984 to present)

With this tool, we have made it possible for everyone to estimate the water budgets with just the click of a button.

To be an early user of this tool, please sign up for the training workshop here.