The Coordinated Project on Irrigation Water Management (named after merger of AICRP on Water Management and AICRP on Groundwater Utilisation during XII Plan) was sanctioned by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) on April 1, 1967 with three centres for three major river valley projects viz. Bhakra, Hirakud and Tungabhadra to conduct research on different aspects of water management and to develop practices and systems for efficient use of irrigation water commensurate with increased agricultural production and sustained soil productivity. During the Fourth Five Year Plan, the Coordinated Project on Soil Salinity, Irrigation, Drainage, Soil Science and Water Management (sanctioned during the later part of Third Five Year Plan) was merged with it expanding the jurisdiction of the new project namely “AICRP on Water Management and Soil Salinity” to 16 centres. During Fifth Five Year Plan, the sphere of the AICRP on Water Management and Soil Salinity project was further extended to 23 centres by merging it with another Fourth Plan Project “AICRP on New Cropping Patterns and Water Use in selected Irrigation Commands”. In the Sixth Five Year Plan (1980-85), the ICAR sanctioned the All India Coordinated Research Project on Water Management for operation at 34 centres by merging with it the on-going “Coordinated Project for Research on Water Management in High Rainfall Areas and Temperate Hill Zones” with 7 centres; addition of 8 new centres in hitherto uncovered irrigation commands; and transfer of four centres (which had emphasis on soil salinity and saline water) to the “Coordinated Project on Management of Salt Affected Soils and Use of Saline Water in Agriculture”. The Coordinating Unit was located at CSSRI, Karnal (Haryana) and the two zonal coordinating units were located at UAS, Dharwad (Karnataka) and NDUA&T, Faizabad (UP). In the Seventh Five Year Plan (1985-90), the project was elevated to the level of Project Directorate vide ICAR letter F.No.3-6/80-AFC dated 21 Nov. 1986. Nine centres were discontinued during Seventh Year Plan period. The sanctioned Project Directorate was established at Rahuri, Distt. Ahmednagar (Maharashtra) in October 1990. It was shifted from Rahuri to Patna (Bihar) in September, 1996. From April 01, 2002, the Coordinating Unit on Irrigation Water Management is functioning at ICAR-Indian Institute of Water Management, Bhubaneswar. Since the Twelfth Five Year Plan, the AICRP on Irrigation Water Management is continuing with 26 Centres with merger of AICRP on Water Management and AICRP on Groundwater Utilisation schemes.
The scheme of AICRP on Irrigation Water Management is functioning through location specific research focus at coordinating centres spread across 26 locations of the country. The ICAR-IIWM, Bhubaneswar Institute coordinates research progammes of 26 network centers which are located in SAUs and research institutes in different agro-ecological regions of the country. Out of this, 22 centers are located in major and medium irrigation commands, 4 centers are located in hilly and high rainfall areas.