The problem of irrigation has been an important one in regard to the Sholapur district since long. An excellent description of the irrigation facilities available in the district has been given by the old Sholapur Gazetteer which is reproduced below:-

" Water Works: Sholapur has seven water works, of which three- the Koregaon, Ashti and Ekruk lakes supply tillage water, and four at Sholapur, Barsi, Karmala and Pandharpur supply drinking water. Of the three tillage water works the Koregaon lake is an old work improved and the Ashti and Ekruk lakes are new works.

Koregaon lake: The Koregaon lake lies thirteen miles north-east of Barsi and is formed by throwing two earthen dams across two separate valleys. The larger dam on the west is 995 feet long and seventy-one feet high in the centre, and the smaller dam on the south-east is 300 feet long with a greatest height of twelve feet. The drainage area is 4.4 square miles. The original depth of the lake near the dam seems to have been fifty feet, but several centuries of silt have much lessened its depth and reduced its storage capacity. Between 1855 and 1858, under the orders of the Collector, the full supply level was raised nine feet which led to the building of the smaller dam. As the dams were of inferior materials, the increased head of water in the lake caused great leakage...... In 1864 and 1865 steps were taken to stop the leakage. These repairs included the entire re-building of the front of the larger dam for a depth of thirty feet that is to below low-water level, and the making of a puddle trench, twelve feet deep and three feet wide, along the whole length of the smaller dam. In September 1870 the smaller dam was breached, and the efficiency of the work was greatly impaired....... The lake will then have a depth of fourteen feet from outlet to full supply, an available capacity of 81,298,114 cubic feet, and a full supply area of 8,793,017 square feet or 202...... acres In 1882-83 the lake watered 84 acres in the village of Koregaon which paid 17-8s. (Rs. 174) for water rates. Of the 84 watered acres nineteen grew ground-nut, eight turmeric, 7 sugarcane, thirty-five jvari, thirteen wheat, and 2 gram.

Ashti lake: The Ashti lake lies in the Madha sub-division twelve miles north-east of the large town of Pandharpur....... The lake is formed by throwing across the Ashti stream, a feeder of the Bhima, an earthen dam 12,709 feet long, with a greatest height of 57.75 feet From........ this lake two canals are led. The left bank canal, which is 11 miles long, commands 12,258 acres; the right bank canal, which is ten miles long, commands 5,624 acres. The land commanded is chiefly in the Pandharpur sub-division. The lake-supply is sufficient to water 10,809 acres in regular rotation, thus raising the arable area under command from four to nine per cent of the whole cultivated area. The dam is entirely of earth...... In addition a concrete wall, five feet thick, has been built at the river crossing, founded on rock and running well into the banks on both sides. The concrete wall is under the centre of the dam...... The exposed portions of the dam are guarded from wear by a mixture of crumbly trap and earth. The whole dam was built in six-inch layers, well watered and rammed. A waste weir, with crest at 232 and 800 feet wide, is formed by cutting through a saddle on the right bank of the lake. The discharging capacity is 48,000 cubic feet a second, equal to a run-off of 0.80 of an inch the hour from the drainage area of ninety-two square miles. The height to which such a flood would rise is seven feet above the crest of the weir and five feet below the top of the dam. All flood water is passed under the canals by aqueducts, or above them by over-passages which also serve as accommodation bridges during the dry weather. The outlet and regulating works for the left bank canal include a head wall, through which the water is discharged into a tunnel, by which it is passed under the dam into a discharging basin, constructed at the head of the canal. The head wall is of coarse rubble masonry. The length at bottom is eighteen feet and the breadth 10 feet. The height of the wall is 33.5 feet, and the reduced level at top is 241 or three feet below the formation level of the dam. The head works of the right bank canal are almost the same as those of the left bank canal; but as the required discharge is only one-third of what is necessary for the left bank canal, all parts of the work are of a smaller size. The lake was completed on the 31st of July 1881 at a cost of 33,499 (Rs. 3,34,990). The dam was begun on the 1st of December 1876 as a famine relief work. The work was finally closed as a famine relief on the 30th of November 1877.

Ekruk lake: The Ekruk lake, the largest artificial lake in the Bombay Presidency, lies five miles north-east of Sholapur. The scheme was prepared in 1863 and sanctioned in 1866. It comprises a reservoir formed by an earthen dam 7,200 feet long and seventy-two feet in greatest height and three canals. The dam is thrown across the valley of the Adhila, a feeder of the Sina, which has a drainage area of 160 square miles above the lake. The lake is sixty feet deep when full, and holds 3,350 millions of cubic feet. The area of water surface is 4,640 acres or 7 square miles. Two waste weirs, together 750 feet long, are provided for the escape of flood water after the lake is full. Of the canals one on each bank is at a high level, designed for four months' watering, and the third on the left bank is at a low level, designed for a twelve months discharge. Of the two high level canals the right bank canal is eighteen miles long, discharges sixty cubic feet a second, and commands 565 acres; and the left bank canal is four miles long, discharges twenty-five cubic feet a second, and commands 856 acres. The low level left bank canal is twenty-six miles long, discharges seventy cubic feet a second, and commands 10,601 gross acres. The canals are bridged and regulated throughout and can be lengthened so as to command a larger area. The low level canal flows close past the town of Sholapur. The work was begun in 1866, and the dam was closed in December 1869. Some water was supplied to the kharif or rain crop of 1871-72. At the end of 1876-77 the work was completed, except the masonry heads to distributaries and the last two miles of the low level canals and the last twelve miles of the high level right bank canal. By the end of 1881-82 all the works connected with the Ekruk lake were completed at a total cost of about 121,262 (Rs. 12,12,620). In 1882-83, of 15,320 acres, the arable area under command, 1,306 acres were watered and paid 524 (Rs. 5,240) for water rates....... Besides tillage water, the Ekruk lake supplies drinking water to the town of Sholapur.

Wells : Besides from the Koregaon, Ashti, and Ekruk lakes bagayat or garden land is watered either by throwing dams across streams or by wells. From the dams land is watered at the latest till the end of March. Wells are rarely sunk in malran or high level lands. According to the 1882 returns, Sholapur has ten rivers, the Bhima, Sina, Man, Bhogavati, Apenpa, Bedki, Chandani, Korna, Nil, and Sira, 818 streams, 214 reservoirs and 17,472 wells. Of the 17,472 wells, 4,812 are used for drinking and washing and 12,660 for watering; 4,712 are with steps and 12,760 are without steps........ " [ Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency, Sholapur District, Vol. XX, 1884, pp. 222-28.]

Agricultural activities in the Sholapur district are still dependent on the vagaries of monsoon. Irrigation aims at making good the deficiencies of rainfall thereby bringing more land under the plough which otherwise remains uncultivated for want of water and also increasing the double-cropped area. In brief, the object of irrigation is to augment farm produce. Irrigation thus occupies an important place in the development of agriculture. Naturally irrigation facilities of permanent nature are necessary to reach any measure of stability in the agricultural production. At present the main sources of water-supply in the district are wells, bandharas, tanks and canals. Lift irrigation from rivers and wells through the installation of electric pumping sets and oil-engines has also benefited agriculture in the district. Table No. 23 furnishes relevant data regarding the sources of water-supply and area irrigated therefrom during the years 1961-62, 1967-68 and 1971-72 in Sholapur district. Table No. 24 and Table No. 25 give the area irrigated under food-crops and non-food-crops respectively during 1961-62, 1964-65, 1967-68 and 1971-72 in the district.

Table No. 26 shows the net area irrigated by different sources for some years from 1880-81 to 1971-72 in Sholapur district.

There was no major irrigation work taken up in the past in the district. Only medium and minor works such as bandharas, tanks and wells provided irrigation facilities in the district. The completion of the Nira Right Bank Canal in 1937-38, however, was one of the most important land-marks in the economy of the district. It ushered in an era of agrarian prosperity in the areas benefited by it. The Bhima Project was another land-mark which has been instrumental in revolutionising the structure of the agrarian economy in parts of the district.

Major irrigation works: The following is the brief account of the major irrigation works in the district:-

Nira Right Bank Canal: The Nira Right Bank Canal system fed by Bhatghar dam in Pune district was put into operation in 1937-38. This canal has a length of 95 miles passing through Sholapur and Satara districts. This canal system now provides irrigation facilities to the Malshiras taluka and irrigates about 50,000 acres in the district. The proportion of the area irrigated to the net area sown in Malshiras taluka is higher than other talukas in the district, due to this facility. The important crops irrigated by this system are sugarcane, cotton and wheat.

Bhima Irrigation Project: It is another important major irrigation project in Sholapur district. This project consists of two parts, viz., (i) Pawana in Pune district and (ii) Ujani in Sholapur district, with canals on each bank to create irrigation potential of 1,66,750 hectares in Pune and an equal potential in Sholapur district. The Ujani dam is located at Ujani in Madha taluka in the district, just half a mile upstream of the bridge on Bhima river on Pune-Sholapur Road. The work of this dam was started in 1969. Originally this project was estimated to cost about Rs. 40 crores. The latest estimated cost of the project is Rs. 62.69 crores and the potential of 1,67,750 hectares would be created on completion of the project. An expenditure of Rs. 21,16 lakhs was likely to be incurred by 1973-74, i.e., last year of the Fourth Plan. This project envisages storage at Ujani with canals on the left and right banks. The dam involves diversion of railway line, costing about Rs. 5.60 crores. By the end of the Fourth Five-Year Plan the following works would be completed:- (1) Pawana dam complete with installation of crest gates, (2) Ujani dam-main dam would be under construction and (3) Left Bank Canal construction - up to forty kilometre length.

An outlay of Rs. 40 crores has been proposed on this project during the Fifth Five-Year Plan period. It is proposed to complete the entire Bhima project and a part of the canal work during the Fifth Plan. The remaining canals may be completed during the subsequent period. The Ujani project is expected to be completed in 1981.

Sina Kolegaon: It is a new major irrigation project taken up during the Fifth Plan. It envisages construction of an earthen dam on Sina river, near village Nimgaon in Karmala taluka. It is estimated to store 5.24 T.M.C. of water. The project will benefit Karmala, Barshi and Mohol talukas in Sholapur district and Paranda taluka of Osmanabad district. The estimated cost of this project is Rs. 910 lakhs and the outlay proposed for Fifth Plan is 100 lakhs. It will create an irrigation potential of 1,34,500 hectares.

Medium projects: Besides the above major irrigation projects, a large area is irrigated by medium projects. Table No. 27 gives the location and area irrigated by the medium projects in Sholapur district.

Tables Nos. 28 and 29 show the irrigation works under execution and those already sanctioned in Sholapur district.

Minor irrigation works: All minor irrigation schemes that irrigate up to 101.17 hectares (250 acres) are under the administrative charge of the Zilla Parishad. The Zilla Parishad is empowered to take up minor irrigation works costing upto Rs. 5 lakhs. It has however been found that projects for irrigation cannot be undertaken within the above-mentioned financial limit by the Government. Naturally the policy of Sholapur Zilla Parishad has been to construct percolation tanks and bandharas, which help in increasing the water-level in the wells in their vicinity due to the rise of sub-soil water. The Zilla Parishad has so far taken up ten percolation tanks, out of which two were completed during 1967-68 and 1968-69. There are about fifty proposals for the construction of percolation tanks in the district which are under investigation.

Table No. 30 shows the minor irrigation works under Sholapur Zilla Parishad which are in progress in the district.

Co-operative Lift Irrigation Scheme: The sources of irrigation in the district are rivers, wells, tanks and bandharas. Water is lifted from the rivers, wells, tanks etc., and used for irrigation purpose. Formerly water was lifted by leather mots or iron mots. This system is still prevalent in some parts of the district where it is not possible to install pumping sets and where the agriculturists cannot afford to purchase oilengines. The co-operative lift irrigation societies, therefore, have been formed as an alternative to provide irrigation facilities. This has helped in bringing larger area under irrigation, reduce the cost of irrigation per acre, raise more than one crop a year and make farming more profitable.

The Sholapur Zilla Parishad has taken up twenty-three lift irrigation schemes in the district, the details of which are given in Table No. 30.

With the two big rivers, viz., Bhima and Sina, and small rivers like Man, Bori and Harna, lately a few lift irrigation schemes have been taken up in the co-operative sector. The Zilla Parishad has undertaken twenty-three such schemes for implementation, out of which seven have been completed. The details are given in Table No. 30.

Bhima river traverses about 180 miles in Sholapur district and has a minimum discharge of fifty cusecs. Besides the Bhima, the Sina and the Bori are suitable for lift irrigation, A major lift irrigation scheme is located at Tandulwadi in South Sholapur taluka. It irrigates about 4,000 acres. Generally in such schemes, area irrigated varies between 125 acres and 1,500 acres. These schemes are found more in South Sholapur, North Sholapur and Akkalkot talukas. More schemes have been proposed throughout the district and some of the co-operative sugar factories have undertaken to finance some lift irrigation schemes.