The impact of irrigation return flow on seasonal groundwater recharge in northwestern Bangladesh

Shibli Sadik Tulip, Md Sifat Siddik, Md. Nazrul Islam, Atikur Rahman, Ali Torabi Haghighi, Syed Md Touhidul Mustafa*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


Irrigation is vital in Bangladesh in order to meet the growing food demand as a result of the increasing population. During the dry season, groundwater irrigation is the main source of water for agriculture. However, excessive abstraction of groundwater for irrigation causes groundwater level depletion. At the same time, the loss from excessive irrigation could end up contributing to aquifer recharge as return flow. Therefore, investigating the influence of irrigation on groundwater is important for the sustainable management of this resource. This study aims to assess the impact of irrigation on groundwater recharge in the northwest Rajshahi district in Bangladesh. A semi-physically based water balance model was used to simulate spatially distributed groundwater recharge with two scenarios (with and without irrigation). To evaluate the effect of irrigation, groundwater recharges from these two scenarios were compared. The result showed that the use of groundwater for irrigation increased over the study period whereas, there was a persistent trend of decrease in groundwater level during the study period. Groundwater provides 91% of overall irrigation in the study area. However, on average, about 33% of the total irrigation becomes return flow and contributes to groundwater recharge in the dry season. Irrigation return flow is around 98% of the total recharge during the dry season in this region. The spatially distributed seasonal return flow varies from 305 to 401 mm. In brief, irrigation has a significant role in groundwater recharge in the study area during the dry season. Hence, proper irrigation water measurement and management are necessary for sustainable groundwater resource management in this region.
Original languageEnglish
Article number107593
Number of pages21
JournalAgricultural Water Management
Early online date9 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2022

Data Availability Statement

Important data are summarized and presented in tables, figures, and references. Data are available from the authors upon request (syed.


  • Spatial resolution
  • Sustainable water management
  • Groundwater recharge
  • Irrigation
  • Irrigation return flow
  • Water table depletion


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