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The Supreme Court delivered verdict on Cauvery Water Dispute. The verdict was delivered on petitions filed by Karnataka and Tamil Nadu against the final award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal.


  • Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal was constituted in 1990 to resolve the dispute following a Supreme Court order which finally passed an order in 2007.
  • As per the order, of the 740 Thousand Million Cubic Feet (TMC) of water available for utilization, 419 TMC was awarded to Tamil Nadu, 270 TMC to Karnataka, 30 TMC to Kerala and seven TMC to Puducherry. The remaining 14 TMC was reserved for environmental protection. But the order was challenged by Karnataka and TN before the Supreme Court.

·        Entry 17 in List II (State List) in Schedule VII

·        Entry 56 of List I (Union List)

·        Inter-State Water Disputes Act (ISWD), 1956 


  • Provisions of Article 262:
  • Parliament may by law provide for the adjudication of any dispute or complaint with respect to the use, distribution or control of the waters of, or in, any Inter-State river or river valley.
  • Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, Parliament may by law provide that neither the Supreme Court nor any other court shall exercise jurisdiction in respect of any such dispute or complaint as is referred to in clause (1).
  • Articles 131 and 136 of the Constitution have been used by the States frequently for bringing the matters related to inter-State rivers before the Supreme Court via the Special Leave Petitions.


  • Tamil Nadu's share of Cauvery water was decreased and Karnataka's share was subsequently increased.
  • The increase in Karnataka share  has been done to meet the increased demand of drinking water by Bengaluru and also for many industrial activities.
  • Observed that CWDT failed to take into account Tamil Nadu's stock of an “empirical” 20 TMC of ground water.
  • Tribunal award of 30 tmcft Cauvery water for Kerala and 7 for Puducherry upheld.
  • declared that An inter-State river like Cauvery is a ‘national asset’, and no State can claim exclusive ownership of its waters
  • order on Cauvery water allocation will continue for the next 15 years
  • Asked the Centre to frame the Cauvery management scheme, including the creation of Cauvery management Board for release of water from Karnataka to Kerala, Puducherry and Tamil Nadu.
  • Invited best practices based on International examples
    • Helsinki example
    • Campione Rule


This verdict will affect other water sharing disputes on new strands of interpretation:

  1. Principle of equality” among the riparian States. - “equal consideration and equal economic opportunity of the co-basin States and not equal division of water.
  2. Invoking the right to drinking water.
  3. Tamil Nadu has 20 tmc ft of groundwater that which had not been accounted for in water-sharing pacts.


  • Does not address challenges of water-sharing during water deficit years and changes in water availability due to climate change effects.
  • Issue with respect to construction of a hydro power project in the common boundaries of the river by Karnataka (Mekedatu hydro project) not attended.
  • The Court did not seek the assistance of at least two technical experts as required under the Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956


  • The Supreme Court approved the Cauvery Water Management Scheme, 2018 framed under Section 6A of the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act of 1956 by the Central government for the establishment of the Cauvery Management Board and the Regulation Committee, in pursuance of the court’s verdict.


  • SC RecommendationSpeedy establishment of Cauvery Water Management Board comprising subject specialists like  water technologists and agriculture specialists in the management board to
    • Ensure greater economy and evenhandedness in Cauvery river  water sharing
    • Examine the water efficiency measures involving recycling of water
  • Drip irrigation and other water-saving/harvesting techniques, crop preference by market demand and which can augment the income of farmers per unit of water.
  • Urban Planning : Urban planning projects are water intensive therefore judicious planning must be taken into consideration 
  • Subsume all tribunals under one- A new set-up that will have non-judicial experts can mean that conflicts over equitable water-sharing will no longer be solely looked at from a legal view-point, but it will give more weight to ecological concepts such as the water basin’s capacity, environmental flows and groundwater management.