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Water Management

Scheme water management

Food and agriculture lie at the heart of the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, especially for the goals of ending poverty, hunger and malnutrition; sustaining natural resources; and responding to climate change.

Water is crucial for agriculture and food production. It is required to meet personal and household needs, for energy and industrial production, and to maintain important water-dependent ecosystems and ecosystem services. Despite increases in water use by sectors other than agriculture, irrigation continues to be the main water user globally, and agriculture is responsible for 70 percent of all freshwater withdrawals worldwide. There is an urgent need to use water more efficiently in agriculture, but, on the other hand, irrigation is one of the main ways to increase food production and rural incomes. It is imperative, therefore, to improve water management to achieve both high water productivity and increase rural incomes.

In 2002, the International Programme for Technology and Research in Irrigation and Drainage (IPTRID) and the Water Resources Management Development Service began a joint survey on the modernization of irrigation. Eighteen case studies were prepared and analysed.

On-farm water management

FAO offers technical assistance to member countries in the design and implementation of on-farm irrigation systems, water-saving techniques, and the identification and adaptation of irrigation techniques. 

FAO also works with member countries on the adoption of water-harvesting techniques and the reuse of treated wastewater in agriculture. 

Institutional strengthening

Meeting the water-related challenges posed by population growth, climate change and other factors may require the reform of institutions in charge of water management.

The nature of such reform will vary, depending on local circumstances and needs. FAO has published guidelines on the transfer of irrigation management (the relocation of responsibility and authority for irrigation management from government agencies to non-governmental organizations, such as water users’ associations) to assist policy-makers, planners, technical experts and others involved in designing and implementing effective, comprehensive, integrated and sustainable irrigation reform.

Irrigation advisory services – provided by private, public or cooperative entities – assist users to adopt new techniques and technologies for efficient water use and to increase production. Commercial agencies are increasingly assuming the traditional role of public agencies, although this trend is often restricted to more lucrative parts of the irrigation sector. Crucial for the promotion of irrigation advisory services is their financial sustainability – a major challenge in many developing countries. 

Training and capacity building

Training and capacity building are needed to develop the skills, knowledge and means to define, plan and implement programmes in integrated water resource development in agriculture.

FAO worked with the International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage’s Working Group on Capacity Building, Training and Education to create a web-based database of education and training courses in irrigation, drainage and flood control.

FAO’s Participatory Training and Extension Programme in Farmers’ Water Management assists technical staff and other stakeholders in putting farmers in charge of water management at the field level and in irrigation schemes. The programme promotes the adoption of appropriate technologies and helps establish the local capacity needed to enable farmers to manage irrigation schemes sustainably.