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Irrigation in the 1990s and beyond

Irrigation is an essential component of sustainable agricultural development but it is not a unique sector, since it faces challenges similar to those confronting other public and private sector economic activities. The previous two sections (II and III) of this report examine how various demand-side policy measures can help shape decisions that encourage water-use efficiency. However, while appropriate policies and regulations are necessary for improved water productivity, a variety of additional water-saving measures are required in the irrigation sector.

Some water-saving measures involve taking more advantage of the scientific, engineering and technological advances in soils, plants and irrigation. Other measures focus on administrative and managerial reforms to improve efficiency, including the decentralization of public irrigation agencies and a greater reliance on farmer-owned and farmer-operated irrigation.

This final section highlights three key irrigation issues: declining growth and investment trends in irrigation; the difficulties imposed by irrigation-induced environmental degradation; and efforts to reform managerial and administrative systems. Many of today's irrigation-related problems appear imposing and even overwhelming. The purpose of this section is not to present a discouraging overview of irrigation's future but to focus on important issues that will shape its future. When scarce water is under human control in irrigation systems, there are many opportunities to use it optimally. Understanding the problems associated with improper irrigation as well as the potential for efficient irrigation is a first step in the search for these opportunities.

Irrigation in the 1990s and beyond

Trends in irrigated area
Crop prices and construction costs
Irrigation and land degradation
Irrigation: good government and good management
Irrigation management: water user associations and NGOs
Future directions in water management policy

Many pressing irrigation issues reflect the various economic, social and political influences affecting society in this period of changing economic conditions and environmental concerns. At times, irrigation-related problems are the result of a distorted macroeconomy which, despite providing operating subsidies, renders farming unprofitable and results in repeated underinvestments on farms over long periods. If the macroeconomy is performing poorly and if prices in the economy are markedly distorted from their real value to society, then it is inevitable that irrigation will suffer.

In other cases, irrigation itself is the problem. The overall performance of many irrigation projects is disappointing. Evaluations document a wide range of problems, including: cost and time overruns; poor management; the non-realization of full, planned benefits; adverse environmental and health impacts; and the exacerbation of inequities in the existing social and economic distribution of assets among farmers.55 Box 18 summarizes the major irrigation policy issues identified by FAO and the actions the Organization is undertaking to improve water use in agriculture.

55 A.K. Biswas. 1990. Monitoring and evaluation of irrigation projects. J. Irrig. Drain. Eng., 116(2): 227-242.

Trends in irrigated area

In 1800, approximately 8 million ha of farmland were irrigated around the world. By the end of the nineteenth century, the irrigated area had expanded to 48 million ha, mostly as a result of large water projects in India and what is now Pakistan.56 By 1990, net irrigated area reached 237 million ha, of which nearly three-fourths were in the developing countries. China, India and Pakistan alone now account for about 45 percent of the world's irrigated area and 60 percent of the developing country total.

56 S. Postel. 1989. Water for agriculture: facing the limits. Worldwatch Paper 93, December.
On a global basis, irrigated area expanded by an average of 1 percent per year during the early 1960s, reaching a maximum annual rate of 2.3 percent from 1972 to 1975. The rate of expansion began decreasing after 1975 and is now less than 1 percent per year. At current levels of population growth, the slower expansion in irrigated areas is resulting in an unprecedented decline in the per caput amount of irrigated land.57
57 See footnote 7.
Among the reasons for the decrease are increased construction costs, falling real prices for wheat and rice, a growing awareness of environmental and social costs and poor irrigation performance at the farm and project levels.58
58 M.W. Rosegrant and M. Svendsen. 1993. Asian food production in the 1990s. Food Policy. 18(2): 13-32.

Crop prices and construction costs

Construction and operation costs for irrigation projects have risen steadily over the past four decades as the world's best land and most of the readily available water supplies have been developed. Over the same time period, world cereal prices fell sharply.

For example, the real price of rice fell by 40 percent between the mid-1960s and the late 1980s.

In Indonesia and India, the real costs of irrigation have doubled since the early 1970s. In the Philippines and Thailand, irrigation construction costs have increased by 50 percent and in Sri Lanka, costs have tripled.59 After reviewing various recent reports and evaluations, including many from the World Bank and FAO, Postel60 reports that: "Today, capital costs for new irrigation capacity run between $1 500 and $4 000 per ha for large projects in China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines and Thailand. They climb toward $6 000 per ha in Mexico. In Africa, where roads and other infrastructure are often lacking and parcels that can be irrigated are relatively small, per hectare costs have climbed to $10 000-$20 000, and sometimes even higher. Not even double-cropping of higher-valued crops can make irrigation systems at the top end of this spectrum economical." It is not just large-scale projects that have become so expensive; FAO estimates that even medium-sized irrigation construction costs range from $2 400 per ha in Asia to $7 200 in Africa.

59 M. Svendsen and M.W. Rosegrant. 1992. Will the future be like the past? In Irrigated agriculture in Southeast Asia beyond 2000. Colombo, Sri Lanka, IIMI.

60 See footnote 7.

Likewise, the modernization of existing irrigation projects is becoming increasingly expensive. Many old projects designed for monocropping have produced gradually declining yields. These systems need to be redesigned to permit crop diversity, increase yields, conserve water and reduce environmental hazards. Modernization involves canal lining, improved hydraulic control structures, better land development and appropriate irrigation techniques.

BOX 18

The International Action Programme on Water and Sustainable Agricultural Development (IAP-WASAD) was created by FAO with the cooperation of other UN organizations as part of a strategy to implement the Mar del Plata Action Plan for the 1990s.

IAP-WASAD identified five priority areas of action and some common measures requiring concerted action to realize Sustainable agricultural development. It pointed out that scarcity of water is a major constraint for the further agricultural development of arid and semi-arid countries. Without renewable water supplies and appropriate and reliable water control and management, sustainable agricultural development is simply not possible.

The five priority areas of action identified by IAP-WASAD include: efficient water use at the farm level; waterlogging, salinity and drainage; water quality management; small-scale water programmes; and scarce water resources management.

Efficient water use at the farm level

The current and potential roles of rain-fed and irrigated agriculture need to be quantified, taking into account the probabilities of rainfall, the available irrigation water supplies and their cost. Small-scale irrigation, including supplementary water for rain-fed agriculture, and a variety of water harvesting and water spreading techniques have considerable potential and should be developed further.

The proposed priority action plan points out that increases in developing country production in the 1990s must come first from increases on existing irrigated lands and second from increases on rain-fed lands. In order to improve performance and control groundwater levels in irrigated agriculture, it is necessary to establish monitoring, evaluation and feedback systems. Appropriate irrigation management training must be available and irrigation extension services must be strengthened and developed further. Information must be shared among farmers, extension workers, design engineers and researchers for a better understanding of various approaches and techniques. Measures should also be taken to review, develop and implement water pricing policies, establish effective demand and supply management procedures as well as cost recovery mechanisms for the operation and maintenance of irrigation projects.

In order to increase production on rain-fed lands, it will be necessary to employ existing soil and water management knowledge to help increase the efficient use of agricultural water. Additional research in the areas of rain-fed water and soil management is also necessary and examples of successful and effective rain-fed practices must be collected and disseminated.

Waterlogging, salinity and drainage

Waterlogging and salinity are among the principal causes of decreasing production on many irrigated projects. Waterlogging is due to an excessive input of water into systems that have finite natural drainage capacities. After waterlogging has occurred, soil salinity increases because the irrigation water leaves dissolved solids in the soil. It is essential to monitor the water table levels from the beginning of a project in order to implement corrective measures before soil damage has occurred.

The action plan notes that, in rain-fed agriculture, surface drainage is required to prevent any temporary waterlogging and flooding of lowlands. In irrigated agriculture, artificial drainage is essential under most conditions. It is vital to minimize drainage requirements and costs by reducing the sources of excess water through improved system design and on-farm water practices. The implementation of groundwater monitoring and water balance studies will help predict drainage requirements. Soil salinity monitoring in problem areas should also be started in order to adopt practices to overcome the problems. In addition, pilot drainage projects should be established in waterlogged and salinized areas to verify the design and effectiveness of materials.

Water quality management

In sustainable agricultural development, there are two significant aspects of water quality: the quality of water used in irrigated agriculture should not cause crop damage; and agricultural activities should not adversely affect the quality of surface or groundwater in such a way that their subsequent use is limited.

The action plan suggests that groundwater quality monitoring programmes to assess agricultural water quality and its impact be developed and that strategies be implemented to minimize the extent of water pollution inflicted by agricultural activities. In addition, national strategies and plans should be prepared, outlining the rational use of treated waste water and drainage water for agriculture.

Small-scale water programmes

Small-scale projects are normally undertaken by communities or individuals who develop and operate most activities of the projects themselves, although some technical assistance is often necessary. Small-scale programmes include a diversity of technologies such as water harvesting, well development, river offtakes and use of wetlands.

The action plan submits that small-scale water programmes can assist sustainable agricultural development. However, further expansion must be founded on adequate technical advice and support, improved institutional collaboration and greater involvement of the local communities. National policies and programmes should be developed for implementing small-scale water projects for rural development. Accordingly, it will be necessary to enhance the capability of farmers to implement, operate and maintain small-scale water programmes.

The monitoring and evaluation of the small-scale water project will help identify the failures as well as the successes.

Scarce water resources management

Many countries face constraints to their development, as available water resources are insufficient to meet demand. The action plan notes that water scarcity conditions require long-term strategies and practical implementation programmes in order to ensure that agricultural water is used in ways consistent with limited water resources.

A strategy must be formulated for the management of land and water for sustainable agricultural development under water-scarce conditions.

At the same time, these policies must remain compatible with the prevailing socio-economic conditions as well as the environment. In addition, measures should be implemented to deal with drought situations and to improve community resilience during such times.

Supporting action

The five areas outlined above require common supporting actions, i.e. the development of adequate databases, adaptive research, institutional strengthening, human resource development, improvements in socio-economic analysis, environmental protection, technology transfer and infrastructure development.

Increasing real investment costs (including recognition of environmental costs) and falling crop prices have resulted in a substantial reduction in new irrigation projects. Aggregate lending for irrigation by both international donors and the major cereal-producing countries in the 1980s was only half what it was in the 1970s. 61 This reduced investment has, in turn, resulted in falling growth rates in irrigated area.

61 See footnote 59.

Irrigation and land degradation

Escalating demand pressure on water resources during the past decade is only one of the concerns for policy-makers. Both watersheds supporting water resources and the land base supporting irrigated agriculture are becoming degraded. Industrial and domestic pollution are affecting irrigated agriculture, while sedimentation washed from denuded hillsides is filling up irrigation reservoirs and small tanks. At the same time, improper irrigation practices are causing waterlogging, salinization, soil erosion and water pollution which directly affects other irrigators.

FAO estimates that of the 237 million ha currently irrigated, about 30 million ha are severely affected by salinity and an additional 60 million to 80 million ha are affected to some extent. UNEP recently reported that the rate of loss of irrigated land from waterlogging and salinity is 1.5 million ha per year.62 Millions of hectares of irrigated land, from Morocco to Bangladesh and from northwestern China to central Asia, suffer from this progressive condition. Salinity-affected areas as a percentage of total irrigated area is estimated to be 10 percent in Mexico, 11 percent in India, 21 percent in Pakistan, 23 percent in China and 28 percent in the United States.63

62 UNEP. 1992. Saving our planet. Nairobi, UNEP.

63 D.L. Umale. 1993. Irrigation-induced salinity: a growing problem for development and the environment. World Bank Technical Paper No. 215. Washington, DC, World Bank.

Salinity is caused by a combination of poor drainage and high evaporation rates which concentrate salts on irrigated land; it mainly occurs in arid and semi-arid regions. Even good-quality irrigation water contains some dissolved salt and can leave behind tonnes of salt per hectare each year. Unless this salt is washed down below the root level, soil salinity will result. A number of factors influence salinity, including the water table depth, the capillary characteristics of the soil and management practices regarding the amount of water applied in excess of plant evapotranspiration to leach the salts.64
64 R.A. Young and G.H. Horner. 1986. Irrigated agriculture and mineralized water. In T.T. Phipps, P.R. Crosson and K.A. Price, eds. Agriculture and the environment. Washington, DC, Resources for the Future.
A related concern is the rapid rise in groundwater levels, leading to waterlogging and depressed crop yields. Waterlogging is not an inevitable result of irrigation. It occurs when excessive water is used in systems with finite natural drainage capacities. Seepage occurs if: soils are very light; canals and watercourses are not lined or maintained; farmers near the head of a system withdraw or apply excessive amounts of water; fields are not levelled; and/or the delivery system cannot respond to rainfall by closing inflows.

Irrigation can raise groundwater levels to within a metre or so of the surface, which results in secondary salinization when the groundwater brings to the surface dissolved salts from the aquifer, subsoil and root zone. If seepage and horizontal recharge exceed evaporation and natural drainage, then groundwater levels rise, eventually causing waterlogging. In arid areas where the upward movement of water and evaporation exceeds downward percolation and where the groundwater, soil or irrigation water contains some salt, the buildup of salt in the soil surface layers will eventually reach toxic levels.

Countries suffering from waterlogging and salinity face a dilemma. They cannot force abandonment of affected lands because of the growing populations that depend on them, but neither can they afford to drain the lands. The cure for rising water tables is drainage and improved water management to reduce percolation, but drainage is expensive and improved water management requires both on-farm investment and the training of extension personnel and farmers.

At the end of the 1950s, Pakistan began to sink wells to pump out salt-laden water. The initial capital costs were high and operating costs have been increasing constantly. Between 1971 and 1985 the cost of managing the wells and drains rose fivefold. Today, Pakistan spends more on reclaiming land than on irrigation. The cost of maintaining drains is five times the recurrent costs of supplying water and most farmers pay only half the costs of delivering irrigation.

Some policy-makers argue that, as the value of water rises, management will improve and much of the wastage (which creates unhealthy conditions as well as increased drainage requirements) will be reduced. Farmers may then be willing to pay for a drainage service that makes their investments sustainable.

Irrigation: good government and good management

Political pressures often prevent the implementation of apparently sensible and fair reforms for water services. Where water is regarded as a special commodity or has emotional or religious importance, governments are reluctant to charge farmers for irrigation. Policy-makers often find it extremely difficult to raise sufficient revenue to match even their priority needs. The practical effects on traditional public service activities may be harsh. Water has been one of the first sectors to feel the effects of budget-saving efforts and changing resource availability. However, it is unlikely to be treated more austerely than other areas. Box 19 discusses the relationship between good government and irrigation performance.

A prime opportunity for irrigation advancement - and indeed for development in general - lies in the enormous potential of the 237 million ha already operating. While the total value of irrigation investment in the developing world today is about $1 000 billion, the returns are well below the known potential. Many irrigation schemes need substantial investment to be completed, modernized or expanded. Although it is increasingly expensive, rehabilitation can yield high returns.

BOX 19

Improvement in irrigation performance depends on good government, or governance. This may be an obvious assertion, but what exactly does the term mean for irrigation? There are four main elements of governance which can be considered at the national or the local level: the legitimacy of government; its accountability, its competence; and its respect for human rights and the rule of law.1

1 World Bank. 1992. Governments and development. Washington, DC, World Bank.
Legitimacy refers to the way in which a population gives consent to be governed, how they are consulted and whether the consent can be withdrawn. Accountability of politicians and officials is tested by how they explain their role and decisions, provide information and can be held responsible for their behaviour. A government demonstrates competence in formulating policies and translating them into action in a timely and effective way. Governments who respect human rights establish a framework of known laws, applicable to all, without bias or corruption, with limits on and protection against the exercise of arbitrary power. We can illustrate how these four elements of governance might affect irrigation with simple examples.

Legitimacy. When a new project is planned, are those living in the area consulted about the design of the scheme? Are there recognized representative groups of farmers, including women? Are the office holders elected and accountable to the members? Do these groups participate in decisions that affect them? For example, if a groundwater irrigation project threatens the availability of drinking-water from hand pumps, are self-help groups informed and invited to make representations?

Accountability. Are the financial plans of the irrigation scheme made public and arrangements made to explain them to farmers? Are there performance criteria with audit arrangements to ensure that officials adhere to the rules and, if they fail to perform satisfactorily, call them to account? Are officials responsive?

Competence. Can the professional staff prepare accurate budgets and effectively deliver services such as timely canal maintenance? Are there arrangements for training them or replacing them with competent officers if they fall short of their duties?

Rule of law. Is there a clear legal framework to regulate groundwater abstraction to prevent overpumping of the aquifers? Is it enforced? Can pollution by industry or by saline water from upstream drainage projects be regulated? Are illegal extractions by farmers at the head of canals monitored and offenders charged by legal processes that are fair, timely, objective and without discrimination on grounds of race, gender or minority status?

Beyond capital investment, investment in human resources is needed to improve economy, efficiency and effectiveness in management.

Investment in irrigation management can be an integral component of a productive rural employment policy and resource management can be improved to match developments in engineering and science. Those concerned with irrigation development and the welfare of farmers and their families are beginning to take a broader view of their responsibilities, paying as much attention to management and development as to engineering.

A review of recent literature on public sector policy and management suggests the need for transforming the typical irrigation authority from a technical, engineering and construction culture to an organization that is focused more on people (farmers) and that is more autonomous and more responsive to customers, i.e. a strategic management service agency.

In the developing world, many water subsector groups recognize their role in the management of valuable water and other complementary resources for economic growth and poverty alleviation.

Irrigation management does not generally have a good record, but the full extent of the problems has been obscured by a lack of performance assessment criteria and a variety of hidden subsidies. It has often been assumed that, if farmers are not complaining, then management must be good. A lack of complaints in a highly subsidized system is not a good indicator of efficiency. Similarly, managers with obvious problems have sometimes had to cope as best they could with a range of exogenous factors that limit their effectiveness, for instance overvalued exchange rates.

One example of a remarkably successful administrative reform is found in the Philippines, where irrigation operating expenses have been reduced, revenue has matched operating costs and operational performance has improved in the process. Box 20 details the Philippines' experience, demonstrating what can be achieved with good planning, dedication, determined technical staff and political support.

Irrigation management: water user associations and NGOs

An increasing number of private sector groups, including water user associations and other NGOs, are taking over some public sector irrigation responsibilities. The inclusion of water users in irrigation planning, management and ownership is proving to be an effective method for increasing irrigation system efficiency in many cases.

Studies throughout the world demonstrate that user participation in irrigation services improves access to information, reduces monitoring costs, establishes a sense of ownership among farmers and increases transparency as well as accountability in decision-making.65

65 K.W. Easter and R.R. Hearne. Decentralizing water resources management: economic incentives, accountability and assurance. World Bank Technical Paper. Washington, DC, World Bank. (In press)
Water user associations are expected to increase in number and importance over the next decade as the stress on self-reliance increases. Already, governments are turning many aspects of public irrigation systems over to water user associations. Well-documented examples can be seen in Argentina, Colombia, Indonesia, Mexico, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Tunisia. In Indonesia, for example, the government had transferred more than 400 irrigation systems, covering 34 000 ha, to water user associations by 1992.62 In the future, as farmer financing becomes more commonplace, user groups will become even more powerful.
66 Ibid.
Other NGOs undertake a wide range of water-related functions, from developing projects for rural water supplies and minor irrigation to fostering water user associations for water management purposes. Some NGOs encourage farmers to try new technologies, for example the catchment protection and sprinkler irrigation techniques introduced by the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme in Gujarat, India.

Many NGOs stem from local initiatives and operate as independently funded and self-managed groups. These organizations bring fresh views, new ideas and participatory working methods to other areas of development policy and practice. Much of their success is attributed to their local knowledge as well as their interest in and experience of regional conditions. They have been particularly active in promoting the interests of poor and disadvantaged groups through articulate and forceful advocacy and service provision. In addition, the local base of NGOs may allow them to reach vulnerable or remote groups which are exceptionally difficult to reach with conventional public schemes.

Water is not an easy sector in which to promote cooperation, but the potential gains are high, which makes renewed efforts worthwhile. Resolution of many water allocation and development problems requires a common willingness to forego personal benefit for the social good. Government efforts to promote personal sacrifice through economic policies, laws and regulations that require self-restraint, such as water rationing or optimum groundwater pumping regimes, have seldom proved effective. On the other hand, with their close local contacts and skills in group mobilization and cohesion, NGOs can provide the institutional leadership required to bring about socially optimum solutions.67

67 For further information on NGOs, see M. Cernea. 1985. Putting people first: sociological variables in development. Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins University Press; or M. Cernea. 1988. Nongovernment organisations and local development. World Bank Discussion Paper No. 40; or S. Paul and A. Israel. 1991. Nongovernment organisations and the World Bank: cooperation for development. World Bank Regional and Sectoral Studies.

BOX 20

The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) of the Philippines is a good example of how a bureaucracy can, over time, transform its strategy and operating style. Since the mid-1970s, the NIA has evolved from an agency that focused primarily on the design and construction of irrigation systems and told farmers about its key decisions into an agency that gives priority to the management and maintenance of irrigation systems, and that gives farmers, through their membership in irrigators' associations, the opportunity to participate in irrigation system management and to make key decisions about maintenance. How did this transformation come about and what have been its effects?

Commitment from the top. In the early 1970s, the NIA's top management diagnosed correctly that farmer organizations were crucial to effective irrigation management and, therefore, committed the NIA to developing and extending the responsibilities of irrigators' associations. The NIA's willingness to renounce its traditional authority was a key factor in this process.

Legal and financial status of the NIA. In 1974, the NIA was established as a public corporation and ceased to be part of a government ministry. It was given a five-year lead-in period in which to become financially self-sufficient in terms of its operating budget. The NIA's semi-independent status set the scene for farmer-financed irrigation and the devolvement of management tasks to farmers.

A gradual approach. The NIA did not transform itself overnight. The participative approach was first tried in the mid-1970s with smaller-scale "communal" irrigation systems that were traditionally managed by farmers. The end of the 1970s saw the development of a methodology to maximize farmer participation based on two pilot projects. Lessons learned were then incorporated into plans to manage the large-scale "national" irrigation systems jointly. Almost 20 years on, the transformation of the NIA from a top-down bureaucracy continues.

Understanding farmers. How has the NIA motivated farmers to participate in and pay for irrigation, to commit time to maintenance, to liaise with the NIA and to plan for the future? The NIA experience illustrates some important preconditions for farmer participation: teaming community organizers and engineers in order to integrate social and technical activities into one process; involving farmers in all project activities from the very beginning, thereby building up their organizational skills; modifying NIA policies and procedures that obstruct farmer participation; allowing enough time for farmers to mobilize and organize themselves before new construction activity.

The quality of the irrigation service provided by and for farmers has undoubtedly improved, system operating expenses have been reduced and the recurrent cost burden of the scheme on the national budget has been eliminated. But what about the impact on irrigation performance? Recent research suggests that the reforms have made water supply more equitable.

On five schemes surveyed five years following the cessation of subsidies, the main impact was the increased equitability of supply. For reasons unconnected with the management reforms, water supplies fell by 13 percent but crop area held constant and yields remained the same. This confirmed the connection between equity of supply and financial viability. To appreciate the value of the reform we need to consider what would have happened to the deteriorating service if the impoverished state bureaucracy had continued to run the schemes.

Future directions in water management policy

Sustainable agricultural development depends on sustainable water use. Governments today recognize that the search for sustainable economic growth requires, in part, both economy-wide and sector-specific policy reforms. Economy-wide policies attempt to create a favourable macroeconomic environment while water sector policies, for example, seek to encourage resource efficiency among water users.

The current emphasis on macro-economic policy reforms and economic liberalization has several important implications for irrigation. One of the most important is that the era of large direct and indirect subsidies is nearly over. Moreover, recognition of the value of water (and the high cost of turning a water source into a service delivered to a farm) makes the water sector a prime target for further policy reforms. Nonetheless, irrigation remains a resource-hungry sector in this transitional period. Even successful irrigation consumes large quantities of capital and foreign exchange and ties up scarce skilled personnel.

Like many public sector personnel, irrigation managers must walk a fine line between a tighter control of finance, the need for more positive active leadership and better planning of resource allocations, on the one side, and the contradictory need for more ideas from below (farmer customers), on the other. Financial pressures are likely to be the dominant influence. Irrigation as a public sector agency still relies on budget allocations to obtain financing. Many argue that this gives little incentive to save money and may, in fact, have the reverse effect.

As private sector disciplines are applied in irrigation, policy-makers are finding that: agencies become more supportive of farmers' own efforts and less inclined to make all key decisions before informing farmers accordingly; management seeks more consensus on priorities, more information about the basis of decisions and a common view of external factors affecting management; irrigation schemes seek and receive more autonomy; the financial responsibilities and accountability of managers increases; and managers shift focus from their ministries and governments, depending on the amount of finance generated by service fees.

At present, water engineering feeds off mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology; management feeds off economics, psychology, political science, history and philosophy and also has a high requirement for personal skills in communication, negotiation and teamwork. However, as changes occur in irrigation in many countries, managers find they must acquire new knowledge and a new set of skills.

Following are some of the issues emerging:

· National water politics are shifting from projects to policies -this trend is likely to continue and even accelerate.

· Water may become a test-bed for economic reform, liberalization and accountability.

· Given water's scarcity and its value to cities and industry, the water subsector will be less dominated by irrigation and its multipurpose uses will be more widely acknowledged.

· Irrigation is a service with customers and users; it is not a production industry.

· At the level of the irrigation scheme, the process of water policy formulation, assessment and appraisal needs to include more open groups that are representative of political, technical, managerial and (most important) water user associations.

· These policy groups would be consulted before policy selection and then provide feedback and adjustment in the light of experience.

· The policy groups would identify options consistent with the national policy framework, as opposed to measures to protect and satisfy special irrigation interests.

· The goal is to identify a broader range of water policy options, to have less "policy by crisis" management and more resilience in the face of outside pressures.

Irrigation allows for better and more diversified choices in cropping patterns and the cultivation of high-value crops. Successful irrigation is a crucial determinant of the world's future development because of its influence on the supply and price of food. As the debate over water policies sharpens, it is increasingly important that agricultural policy-makers help shape the nature of the debate and influence policy decisions.

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