India is facing major challenges in its water resources management (WRM) sector. Water shortages are attributed to issues such as an explosion in population, rapid urbanization and industrialization, environmental degradation and inefficient water use, all aggravated by changing climate and its impacts on demand, supply and water quality. This paper focuses on the contemporary and future situation in the Cauvery river basin in Southern India, shared by different states, predominantly Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. As water issues largely fall under the authority of the states, inter-state water disputes have a long tradition in the Cauvery river basin. Future changes in precipitation during the two monsoon seasons will only increase these tensions. Both states depend on the arrival of these monsoon rains to water their crops and to replenish the groundwater. The paper identifies the major challenges and general possible solutions for sustainable WRM within the river basin. It synthesises the relevant literature, describes practices that should be addressed in the scope of integrated WRM – including water availability increase and demand management – and stresses the need for further quantitative analyses.

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