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Water is essential for life. It plays a key role in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. As the population continues to grow and the economy develops, the competition for water uses between different users intensifies, which induces excessive strain on the environment. Climate change and water pollution further aggravate the situation. Today, 2.8 billion people are affected by some form of water scarcity, and the number of regions affected by water shortages is on the rise. By 2025, two-thirds of the world's population will live in countries affected by water scarcity, including one-third of the populations of China and India. Water scarcity is not only a regional issue, but also a serious global concern. This is why UN-Water has identified the theme "Coping with water scarcity" as one of its priorities for the decade. Accounting for 69 percent of global water withdrawal and 84 percent of Asian water withdrawal, agriculture plays a crucial role in sustainable water management. While achieving much, irrigation is more and more frequently criticized for inefficient water use. The general consensus is to incorporate agricultural water management into integrated river basin water resource management and to promote irrigation modernization.

Shanxi is a typical inland province in the middle reach of the Yellow River in China, with an average annual precipitation of 500 mm. Average water availability per capita and per cultivated mu are about 381 m3 and 180 m3 respectively, accounting for 17 and 11 percent of the national average only. Unbalanced water resource development in past decades is the cause of severe groundwater overexploitation and extensive coal mining is damaging crucial water sources. Irrigated agriculture is the biggest water consumer, but its overall performance is far from satisfactory. Water scarcity has become the major constraint to sustainable socio-economic development in the province. To share national and international experiences and to study these issues systematically and comprehensively, Shanxi Provincial People's Government and FAO's Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (RAP) co-sponsored an International Forum on Water Resources Management and Irrigation Modernization in Shanxi Province, at Taiyuan and Yuncheng Cities, Shanxi Province, China from 22 to 24 November 2006.

The forum was organized by the Shanxi Water Resources Department and attended by some 260 participants including international and national experts; senior government officials from the State Council, the Ministry of Water Resources, Shanxi Provincial Government and local governments; and the irrigation managers of all large-scale irrigation schemes in Shanxi Province. The forum reviewed the current status and future trends of water resource management and irrigation development in Shanxi Province; shared relevant national and international experiences in arid and semi-arid areas; and discussed and recommended options for integrated water resource management and irrigation modernization in Shanxi Province. This proceedings provides not only inputs for policy-making for sustainable socio-economic development in Shanxi Province but also useful references for other arid and semi-arid areas in Asia and other regions.

He Changchui

Liang Bin
Assistant Director-GeneralVice-Governor
and Regional Representative Shanxi Provincial People's Government
FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific China

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