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Irrigation and drainage

Evolution of irrigation development

Irrigation in Kuwait started in the late 1950s. Initially surface irrigation techniques (furrow and basin irrigation) were used. Sprinkler irrigation was introduced in 1977, using treated wastewater. Localized irrigation was introduced in 1979, first for agricultural production in greenhouses, but from 1981 onwards also for irrigation in open fields in order to preserve the water resources.

In 1994 the total water managed area, all with full or partial control irrigation, was 4 770 ha, which is in fact equal to the cultivated area, as the entire cultivated area is irrigated. Out of this area, almost 61 percent was irrigated with primary groundwater (Figure 3). Surface irrigation is the main irrigation technology used in Kuwait, covering 63 percent of the area equipped for irrigation (Figure 4). Localized and sprinkler irrigation cover 24 and 13 percent respectively. In 2003, the total area equipped for irrigation was 7 050 ha (Table 8).

There are three types of farming in the irrigation sector:

  • Private farms, which are leased by the government to investors (25 years renewable) and operated by labourers. These are the most numerous. The smaller ones are mostly located in Al Wafra in the south, the larger ones in Al Abdali in the north;
  • Institutional schemes, which are operated by the government through the Public Authority for Agricultural Affairs and Fish Resources (PAAFR);
  • Company-owned schemes such as the United Company for Agricultural Production, located in Al Solaybeia in the centre of the country.

Role of irrigation in agricultural production, the economy and society

The cost of irrigation development for small schemes (< 10 ha), equipped with localized irrigation including one well and a pump, amounts to US$19 000/ha. The cost decreases as the irrigation scheme size increases and for large schemes (> 30 ha) it is about US$15 000/ha. Annual operation and maintenance costs per ha are estimated at 2 percent of the investment costs.

There are no water charges for groundwater use. Farmers are charged for desalinated water use and the charge varies from US$0.9/m3 for small schemes to US$1.5/m3 for large schemes. The treated sewage water charge is US$0.07/m3.

In 2006, about 45 percent of the harvested land was devoted to vegetable production, mainly tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers and sweet peppers, and 19 percent concerned cereals, mainly barley and wheat. Date palm trees are the most important fruit trees grown, which occupy about 20 percent of the cultivated land. The remaining crops grown are potatoes and some other annual and permanent crops (Figure 5). In 2003, agricultural production included 207 000 tonnes of vegetables, 18 000 tonnes of fruits and about 3 300 tonnes of cereals.

Status and evolution of drainage systems

Impervious layers exist at various depths in the Al Wafra area creating waterlogging in some areas. In 1994 this was estimated at 2 840 ha, due to poor natural drainage. On-farm drainage systems have not yet been developed, but some studies related to this subject are being conducted by the Public Authority for Agricultural Affairs and Fish Resources (PAAFR) and the Ministry of Electricity and Water (MEW). Small-scale subsurface drainage systems were installed in some public gardens (2 ha). The area salinized by irrigation was estimated at 4 080 ha in 1994.


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       Quote as: FAO. 2016. AQUASTAT website. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Website accessed on [yyyy/mm/dd].
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