Knowing water better: towards fairer and more sustainable access to natural resources - KnoWat

Background and challenges

In Sri Lanka, the KnoWat project is implemented in collaboration with the Department of Irrigation of the Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources Management.   

The South Subcatchment (77,750ha in extent) of Malwathu Oya river basin is the pilot area. It is one of the major agricultural areas in the country. The area is diverse with different ethnic groups, different irrigation systems, different water users, and different rural, periurban and urban communities. Rice production is the main source of livelihood, along with other food crops such as lentils and fruits. The Malwathu river is one of the most important water sources for irrigation, domestic water supply and other uses in the North Central Province.  

The irrigation systems of the Malwathu Oya river are a legacy of the Sri Lankan ancient hydraulic revolution. Even today, the basin has hundreds of small inter-connected rainwater storage tank cascade systems, and larger reservoirs. Some of the large irrigation tanks provide multiple services such as water for irrigation and livestock, water for municipalities, households, industries and aquaculture and fulfil the water requirement of the natural ecosystems and sanctuaries. New water resources development projects are being implemented including a construction of a new dam at the Lowar Malwatu Oya area and the rehabilitation of abandoned and degraded tanks.  

In recent times, due to the impacts of climate change, the Malwathu basin is prone to water scarcity and floods which affects the country’s economy, people’s health and livelihoods, dairy, fisheries, industry, ecosystems and wildlife. At different times of the year people in the project area suffer from severe scarcity  of water and devastation of properties due to floods. No adequate data and information are available for proper planning and management of water resources. The success of newly planned water sector development investments will depend on sound planning and up-to-date, reliable information.   

Expected results

The following results are expected in Sri Lanka: 


  • The WaPOR database covering all Sri Lanka and, at a higher resolution, the Malwathu river basin has been established.
  • A comprehensive water resources assessment of Sri Lanka and Malwathu river basin have been carried out and key data and information on water accounting, governance and water productivity have been acquired.
  • Capacities of technical staff of key government institutions at national, basin and farmers’ organizations at local level on the use and management of data for better water management are improved. 
  • The interlinkages of water tenure and climate change have been identified and different agricultural development pathways have been analyzed highlighting the potentials and risks of agricultural development in the basin.
  • National stakeholders from government, civil society, private sector and media have improved awareness and initiated dialogue on the issues of water scarcity, water access and agricultural water productivity.  

Share this page