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Prospects for agricultural water management
Irrigation will form an important component of future strategies for achieving food security and agriculture-based economic growth in South Sudan in the long term. Agriculture is expected to be the single biggest user of water in future and as demand for irrigation water grows there is need to establish policies and strategies to promote efficient and responsible water use and mitigate potential conflicts between competing users (GoSS, 2007).
The initial step for future water management is an assessment and mapping of the water resources in the country, especially groundwater which remained unknown up to now (AfDB, 2013). This review is ongoing according to the country development plan (GoSS, 2011).
To complement this review from an irrigation perspective, there are currently some prospections to identify and map more precisely the irrigation potential. A national Irrigation Master Plan is under preparation to prioritize investments for the development of irrigated agriculture in the decade ahead (GoSS, 2013). The objective is to increase the irrigated area to 400 000 ha by 2020. This, however, might be quite ambitious considering the current area equipped for irrigation, which is only 38 100 ha, the lack of irrigation knowledge and the economic conditions. Regarding water and sanitation, the objective is to increase access to improved water supply to 70 percent in urban areas and 65 percent in rural areas by 2020 (AfDB, 2013). Finally, with the significant livestock activities and its difficulty to access water in dry periods, developing water resources for livestock is also an important objective for the country (GoSS, 2013).
Another future challenge is to establish a legal framework for the country's water management. This includes both a Water Act for national development, allocation and protection of the water resources, as well as an overall policy vision for the sharing of transboundary water resources with riparian states. In particular, a formal decision on South Sudan's share of the Nile water has to be taken, either as a portion of the current Sudanese share under the 1959 agreement (Salman, 2011), or as a portion of the total Nile water resources under a new agreement to be negotiated.