The Grand Anicut across the Cauvery in Tamil Nadu built in the second century and the Bhojpur Lake (Bhopal) constructed during the 11th century bear testimony to the skill the Indians had acquired in the development of irrigation works in the ancient times. During the medieval period, Ferozeshah Tughlaq built a part of the present Western Yamuna Canal towards the middle of the 14th century. Present Bari Doab Canal in Punjab incorporates canal from the Ravi which was built by Ali Mardan Khan in the 17th century. During the pre-independence period, the British using systematic western technology built a network of canals in the country which was remarkable by any standards. When India entered upon an era of planned development in 1951, it was clearly recognised that the foremost requirement in rebuilding the agricultural economy of the country is large-scale development of irrigation and power.
The pride of place in the Planning era was accordingly given to irrigation and, as a result, the gross irrigated areas in the country increased many fold. Total irrigation potential before 1951 was 22.6 million hectares which increased to 93.98 mha by the end of the Ninth plan. The country has reduced its dependency on rain-fed irrigation/agriculture to a certain extent.
The irrigation potential created in the country has increased from 102.70 mha during 10th plan period to 109.87 mha at the end of 11th plan. A storage capacity of about 253 billion cubic metres (BCM) has been created in the country so far. The per capita water storage capacity in India is about 209 m3.
The average annual per capita water availability in the country as per census 2011 is 1545 per cubic metres.