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Helping to Build a World Without Hunger
  FAO Water  
6th World Water Forum
Multiple use of water MUS
Water Scarcity
World Water Forum 6
Theme Water & Food Security
The 9 Targets
T1: Rainfed agriculture
T2: Irrigated agriculture
T3: Productivity
T4: Wastewater
T5: Water storage
T6: Planning
T7: Groundwater
T8: Food waste
T9: Small-holders
    Information Resources
Modernization of Irrigation Systems
Modernization of Irrigation Systems
Topics WWF6 | Theme 2.2 | Target 5
Water storage

By year 20yy increase by xx% the capacity of water storages in support of irrigated agriculture (either supplementary, deficit, or full irrigation) - within the framework of an environmentally sufficient and socially sound management

Note:In the target, the target date and the (x) % is not specified as such a value will vary between countries and is recommended to be defined at country level instead.

Secure access to water with reliable storage and irrigation has boosted economic growth in many of the developed economies of the Americas and Europe, and through the green revolution in Asia has enabled the transformation of agriculture-based economies to industrial and emerging market economies.

In many cases, these storages also are the ones serving multi-purposes like hydropower contributing to energy security, simultaneously. The level of creation of storages in many developing countries in Africa as well as Asia, however, cannot be considered to be adequate enough to withstand future challenges due to drought and thus ensure food security.

Countries in sub-Saharan Africa store only about 4% of their annual renewable flows, compared with 70%-90% in many developed countries, yet water storage is essential to ensure reliable sources of water for irrigation, water supply and hydropower and to provide a buffer for flood management. About 340 million Africans lack access to safe drinking water, and almost 500 million lack access to improved sanitation facilities. It is thus understandable that the First African Water Week, convened in Tunis in March 2008, opened with a call for greater efforts to ensure water security nationally and regionally.

In arid and semi arid parts of countries in Asia the high population pressure has also enhanced demands, and these are in some cases, in excess of supply resulting in a few basins getting closed (like Cauvery Basin, Peninsular India). A few countries are contemplating long distance water transfer as in China and India to meet the exigencies of water shortage for multiple needs, while simultaneously addressing the enhancing efficiency and reducing demands.

Rapid pace of ground water development has resulted in a number of problems. In many arid and hard rock areas, overdraft and associated water quality problems are increasing. The development of groundwater in some coastal areas in the country has led to landward movement of seawater fresh water interface resulting in contamination of fresh water aquifers. In addition to problems caused due to human interference, natural factors like occurrence of high content of fluoride, arsenic and iron are also affecting the ground water quality in several parts of the country. In many situations, the over exploitation of ground water to an unsustainable level, as it obtains now, can be reversed with proper dam backed storage supplies for the systems developed with irrigation facilities, thereby weaning the farmers from resorting to unsustainable abstractions which also seek energy and associated green house gas effects.

Lack of water storage infrastructure also causes heavy economic losses from flooding and drought. Polluted water has high costs for human health. In short, adequate investments in water management, infrastructure and services can yield a high economic return by avoiding such related costs.

Viewed from the angle of the likely impact of climate change, various 'in-country ' studies as in India, project the possible intensification of hydrological cycle due to rise in temperature i.e., increase in rainfall but with increased variability in time and space leading to floods-drought- flood like situations more frequently and more severely affecting the poor and vulnerable sections of the society at large.

A lot more is yet to be accomplished in securing enough storage to combat droughts and also manage floods in many basins in developing countries. These not only result in huge losses year after year due to damages but also human sufferings and losses of life and cattle. The lack of adequate finances for investment had come in the way of creating adequate storages in many river basins, around the turn of the century with funding agencies opting out of dam construction due to various reasons and one such included the economic viability.

The low agricultural prices which prevailed till 2008 (just before the economic down turn) was the reason behind the lack of enthusiasm in funding agriculture as well as storage dams for irrigation. However, the subsequent steep hike in food prices following steep rise in oil price led many governments to reverse their perceptions and the investment needs for dams and storages are back again as an agenda. This is a welcome trend as the world can no longer be silently watching more and more die of starvation, particularly in Africa and Asia.

The need for storage is obvious if we look into country-wise scenario and an inter comparison. The per capita storage in India is about 225 m³ and a comparison with the storage achieved in many of the countries results in the following:

A general scenario of per capita storage available based on dam backed storage (large and small)

Annual storage available per capita in m³







United States










South Africa


The harnessable surface water resources had not yet been fully accomplished, just as the case with many other countries.
For many countries with insufficient storage cushions, the case for creating storages should form part of its agenda. Given the projected rise in population in many of the developing nations in Africa and Asia, and the changing demographic patterns including urbanization, the necessity to move up in the ladder of industrialization shall necessitate dams and carry over storages to look beyond annual flows, if scope exists.


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