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Agriculture is by far the main water-withdrawing sector. Based on the total irrigated area, cropping pattern and calendar, annual agricultural water withdrawal was estimated to be in the order of 5 200 million m│ in 2002, while municipal and industrial water withdrawals were estimated to be about 330 and 20 million m│ respectively (Table 4 and Figure 1). Agricultural water withdrawal in 2016 is estimated at around 9 000 million m│. This figure, however, seems to be a low estimate considering both the large increase in irrigated areas and the changing pattern in irrigated crops. The huge livestock population withdraws an estimated 687 million m│ in 2010 (EU, 2011). Industrial demand is estimated at 51 million m│ level and municipal water withdrawal at 810 million m│ in 2005.
Groundwater is mostly used for drinking supply. It represents about 70 percent of rural water supply and a major role in several of the largest cities (Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa, Mekelle, Harar) and a number of medium sized towns. Groundwater use in irrigation is only at pilot scale for now, but plans to develop it are studied and shallow groundwater wells are constructed by farmers in some areas (MoWR, 2011).