Español || Français
      AQUASTAT Home        About AQUASTAT     FAO Water    Statistics at FAO

Featured products

Main Database
Global map of irrigation areas
Irrigation water use
Water and gender
Climate info tool

Geographical entities

Countries, regions, river basins


Water resources
Water uses
Irrigation and drainage
Institutional framework
Other themes

Information type

Summary tables
Maps and spatial data

Info for the media

Did you know...?
Visualizations and infographics
SDG Target 6.4
UNW Briefs

Read the full profile


Water management, policies and legislation related to water use in agriculture


Sudan has kept most institutions of pre-2011 Sudan, including the water related institutional structure.

The main ministry involved in water management and irrigation development at federal level is the Ministry of Water Resources and Electricity, resulting from the merge in 2012 of the Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources and the Ministry of Electricity and Dams. It sets the national water resources policies, develops and monitors water resources, and promotes water management including irrigation and drainage. The National Water Resources Council is its advisory body at national level.

In a lesser extent, two others ministries are also involved in water management:

  • The Ministry of Agriculture
  • The Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Physical Development, and in particular its Higher Council for Environment and Natural Resources (HCENR), the coordination body for all environmental and natural resource management related matters in the Sudan, established in 1992 (HCENR, 2008).

Research on the various aspects of water use and management is carried out at federal level by a number of research institutions:

  • Land and water research centre
  • Water harvesting research institute
  • Hydraulic research station
  • National corporation for rural water
  • Soil and water studies centre
  • Agricultural research corporation centres
  • Desertification and water research centre

The Public Water Corporation in Khartoum is responsible for the entire country water supply policy and development and for the 15 State Water corporations.

Finally, UNESCO Chair in water resources (UWCR-SD) was founded in 1994 in Sudan to serve the Nile basin and Shared Aquifer countries in the region, but contribute also to international debates on water resources.

At state level, institutions dealing with water are weak, due to the management of all natural resources according to state boundaries, thus not adequate for management at basin river or aquifer scale (HCENR, 2008).

Water management

Water management is completely separated from other natural resources (UNEP, 2012) and is made based on administrative rather than environment units, preventing comprehensive approach for natural resources management and conservation (HCENR, 2008).

In Darfur, water management is even more laborious due to lack of comprehensive knowledge of the resources, especially groundwater, as data is spread among many institutions. In addition, there is a lack of skilled staff for operation and management of both urban and rural water infrastructures, due to weak institutions and resources. A high level International Darfur Water Conference to address water issues and mobilize funds for the sector was held in Khartoum in June 2011 (AWF, 2011).

The Gezira scheme was government-owned and managed until 2009/2010. By 2001, participation of the water users was introduced in the management through Minor Canal Committee, but the Ministry was responsible for managing the Sennar Dam on the Blue Nile and the upper reaches of the irrigation system, and the semi-autonomous Sudan Gezira board (SGB) was entrusted with a vertically integrated management of lower reaches of the irrigation system, including prescribed rotations of cotton. Each tenant had plots in five tertiary units and had to plant according to the approved rotation so that all fields of a same crop were grouped together. The 2005 Gezira act introduced a complete change in management from 2009/2010, effectively transferring the responsibilities for irrigation to land-owner and to water user associations and thus devolving planting decision-making to the farmers, thereby allowing planting flexibility within the water delivery regimes. The Rahad and Suki schemes are also under new management, while the New Halfa scheme was expected to follow (FAO and WFP, 2011).


Financing irrigation operation and maintenance through fees collected from the beneficiaries of the irrigation system was first introduced in Sudan with the introduction of the modern irrigation system at the El Zeidab scheme in 1909 when a private foreign company erected a pump station to irrigate local farmers’ land for an agreed irrigation fee. After the success of the experiment for the first two seasons, a bad crop yield in 1911/12 meant that the farmers were unable to pay their irrigation fees. The company experienced heavy losses and decided to pull out of the scheme.

Experience from El Zeidab scheme was used in selecting the form of production relationship between the government, the Sudan Plantation Syndicate and the farmers when the Gezira scheme was commissioned. To avoid the inability of some farmers to pay irrigation fees in the case of bad crop yields, a “sharing system” between the three parties was adopted. This system continued until 1981 when it was replaced by what is known as the “individual account system” in which each individual farmer is treated separately in terms of cost and profit. The objective was to create some incentive for the individual farmers to increase their productivity. The new account system failed to achieve break-even productivity. The individual account system was also applied in all the irrigation schemes run by the government at that time. Payment of irrigation fees by the farmers continued in all government schemes from 1981 to 1995. During this period irrigation fees collected were very low, averaging about 50 percent only. The non-recovered part of the water supply costs is borne by the government.

Starting from 1995, and as part of the liberalization of the economy, the government withdrew from financing the cost of irrigation services, among other things. Farmers were left to pay irrigation fees to the newly established Irrigation Water Corporation (IWC), which uses these fees directly to provide water supply services to the farmers. Instead of the IWC setting up its own mechanism for collecting the fees directly from the farmers, it relies on the Agricultural corporations (AC) managing the scheme to collect the fees from the farmers. Because these ACs were also facing considerable financial difficulties, part of the water fees collected may not reach the IWC and part of the collected fees paid to IWC is delayed for some time as it is used for financing other urgent activities. The result of this is the inability of IWC to have the required budget that enables it to provide its services in a sustainable manner. This led to the accumulation of sediment in the irrigation canals, deterioration of the water regulation structures, machinery and pumps.

By the year 2000 the IWC was dissolved and the Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources was again responsible for the operation and maintenance (O&M) of the irrigation canals up to the minor off-takes.

It is unclear how payment of irrigation feed is made since the recent devolution to water users in the large irrigation schemes.

Policies and legislation

The legal basis for water management, as well as irrigation and drainage, in Sudan at federal level was directly inherited from pre-2011 Sudan and includes the following acts (UNEP, 2012):

  • Civil Transaction Act 1984 ties the rights to develop and access water resources with land rights, as long as permission is granted by the respective water authority;
  • Irrigation and Drainage Act 1990 states authority over Nile and surface waters, in particular to issue licenses especially for irrigation and discharge into surface waters;
  • Water Resources Act 1995 is a major institutional reform concerned with the Nile and Non-Nilotic surface waters as well as with groundwater, hence superseding the 1939 Nile pumps control act that was limited to the Nile waters only. It also establishes the NWRC and the need of a license for any water use;
  • National Water Commission Act 1995, which is responsible water planning, coordinate water use, protect the environment, and carry out research on water sources and their sustainable exploitation;
  • Groundwater Regulation Act 1998 mandates the Groundwater and Wadis Directorate as the sole government technical organ to develop and monitor wadis and groundwater, and to issue permits for constructing water points;
  • Public Water Corporation Act 2008 gives authority to central government for national planning, research, development and investment in the water supply sector, as well as the corresponding policies and legislations.

In addition to these legislations, a number of policies, programmes and strategies have been defined for practical water management at federal level (AWF, 2011; FAO and WFP, 2011; UNEP, 2012):

  • Draft National Water Policy 1999, amended in 2006, to ensure “sustainable and integrated management of available water resources and recognition of water as an instrument for conflict resolution”.
  • An Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) Strategy from 2008, currently reworked (UNEP, 2012).
  • The National Adaptation Programme of Action to address climate variability and climate change focusing agriculture, water resources and public health;
  • The National Water Supply and Sanitation Policy 2010, still awaiting endorsement at the national level, to ensure equitable and sustainable utilisation and provision of safe water and sanitation, with a view to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
  • Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) strategic plans for the 15 States, covering a period of five years from 2011- 2016, were completed in May 2011.
  • The National Agricultural Revival Programme 2007-2012, to improve water control through rehabilitation of the large irrigation schemes, encouraging development of the agro-industry by establishing a number of sugar factories, and improving infrastructure. Construction of the Merowe Dam was part of this programme.

^ go to top ^

       Quote as: FAO. 2016. AQUASTAT website. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Website accessed on [yyyy/mm/dd].
      © FAO, 2016   |   Questions or feedback?    [email protected]
       Your access to AQUASTAT and use of any of its information or data is subject to the terms and conditions laid down in the User Agreement.