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Republic of Moldova

Irrigation and drainage

Evolution of irrigation development

The irrigation potential has been estimated at 1.5 million ha. About 30 percent of this, or 500 000 ha, is located in the Nistru basin, 200 000 ha in the area surrounding the Costesti-Stanca reservoir on the Prut river, and another 200 000 ha in the extreme south, if using water stored in the Ukrainian Ialpug and Cahul lakes close to the border. The remaining areas consist of extension possibilities of the existing schemes (mainly in the Nistru basin) and of areas scattered all over the country. On most of these lands rainfed agriculture is currently practiced or they are used as pastures.

Between the end of the 1st World War in 1918 and the beginning of the 2nd World War in 1940, Bessarabia (which included the present Republic of Moldova) was under Romanian jurisdiction and during that period the first tanks were constructed in the Prut basin. Large-scale water resources development started after the Second World War when the country was part of the Soviet Union. Substantial investments were made in the large-scale irrigation subsector during the 1960s and early 1980s.

In 1992, just after independence, the area equipped for irrigation covered 312 000 ha. The irrigation water was stored in reservoirs and tanks, built on the rivers, and pumped into the main irrigation canals. The three largest schemes in 1992 were: the Rabnita in the Nistru valley, with a total area of 24 000 ha; and the Suklei and Etuliy irrigation schemes, with an area of 10 000 ha each.

Since then the irrigation sector has declined for several reasons, but mainly due to economic factors and the unfit structure of old irrigation systems for the newly emerging pattern of private farming. In 2014, total area equipped for irrigation is estimated at 228 300 ha (NBS, 2014), of which 30 percent surface irrigation, 63 percent sprinkler irrigation and 7 percent localized irrigation (Table 5 and Figure 2). In 2007 actually irrigated area accounted for only 32 000 ha.

Irrigation is mainly concentrated in the central and southern parts of the country, in the Nistru and Prut valleys. The Prut and Nistru rivers are the main sources of irrigation water, although tributaries of these rivers are also important sources. No groundwater is used for irrigation. As the private agribusiness started to grow, the water supply from inland lakes and ponds became very popular and more convenient to access (World Bank, 2008).

Role of irrigation in agricultural production, economy and society

Of the actually irrigated area of 32 000 ha in 2007, 7 000 ha or 22 percent were cereals, 3 500 ha or 11 percent vegetables, 3 500 ha or 11 percent potatoes, 2 200 ha or 7 percent sugar beet, 4 800 ha or 15 percent fruit trees and 11 000 ha or 34 percent permanent meadows and pastures (Table 5 and Figure 3).

Status and evolution of drainage systems

In 1992, the drained area was estimated at 42 000 ha. About 70 percent or 29 400 ha was equipped with subsurface drains, usually pipes, located in the area equipped for irrigation (Table 5). Drainage is mainly concentrated in the central and southern parts of the country.


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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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