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Overview of Irrigation

Modernization in the Near East

(Cases of Jordan, Iran, Syria, Yemen)

Maher Salman
(Technical Officer)

• Definition of Irrigation Modernization

• Background of the example countries
• Modernisation Interventions
– Policies and trends
– Technical intervention
– Institutional & managerial intervention
– Financial implication
– Environmental consideration
– Capacity building
• Impact of irrigation modernisation
– Governance
– Economic impact
– Social impact
– Environmental impact
Definition of Irrigation Modernization
“a process of technical and managerial upgrading of irrigation
schemes with the objective to improve resource utilization (labour,
water, economics, environmental) and water delivery service to
farms; or the transition from supply-oriented to service-oriented
irrigation water delivery”

What does that emphasise?

• involves upgrading or improvement of resource utilization;
• can involve hardware or/and software changes;
• incorporates the notion of service provision to farms;
• implies the proper selection of applications and options.
Background of the studied countries

• Water scarcity (all countries)

• Agriculture plays an important role in the national
economy (Iran, Syria, Yemen)
• Expansion of irrigated areas, particularly from
groundwater resources (all countries)
• Relatively Low irrigation efficiency (all countries)
• Domination of surface irrigation (all countries)
Irrigation Modernization Intervention
(Policies and Trends)
• Often part of national water strategies (Iran, Jordan, Yemen) or sub
component of development plans (Syria) or a part of national
agriculture policy (Yemen)

• Emphasis on improving water use efficiency in agriculture

• Packages of efficiency improvement policy include primarily

technical aspects (Syria), financial option via cost recover and water
pricing (Yemen, Jordan), enhancing participation (Iran), institutional
strengthening (Iran, Yemen) and; capacity building (Syria)
(Technical Interventions)
• At scheme level:
– rehabilitation of main and secondary canals (all countries)
– development of tertiary and quaternary canals (Iran)
– conversion from open to piped delivery system (Yemen)
– adoption of farm turn-outs (Jordan)
– adoption of pressurized irrigation system (Jordan, Yemen)
– installing of filtration units at the main irrigation canals (Jordan)
– installing of water monitoring system (Iran)
• At farm level:
– adoption of modern irrigation technologies and micro irrigation
(Jordan, Iran, Syria, Yemen)
– surface and subsurface drainage (Iran)
– land levelling (Iran, Yemen)
– fertigiation kits (Jordan)
(Institutional Interventions)
• Irrigation Management Transfer (IMT)
– Water Users Associations (Yemen, Iran)
– Farmers are responsible for operation and maintenance of
tertiary networks (Iran)

• Participatory Irrigation Management (PIM)

– New law permitting establishing WUA in Syria with recent pilot
– Transfer the operation of the farm turnout gate valves to the
farmers (Jordan Valley Authority)
(Financial Implications)

• Irrigation fees: partial coverage of O&M costs and in some

case capital costs (Jordan, Iran, Syria)

• Lifting subsidies on other inputs such as diesel (Yemen)

• Various forms of irrigation fees

Jordan Iran Syria Yemen

Water Use Tariff

(Cubic meters per (JD per
agricultural unit per cubic
month) meter)
Flat rate
0- 1000 0.008 1-3 % of the Flat rate 100 % of
Fees to cover
gross agricultural 3,500 O&M
1001 - 2000 0.012 production SYP/ha (planned)
2001 - 3000 0.020

> 3000 0.035

Average 0.015

40% of
Fees to cover 30 % of capital
investment NA costs over 10 NA
costs over
costs years
30 years
(Environmental Considerations)

• Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) studies are

implemented in all internationally funded projects (all
• Projects nationally funded are not subject to proper EIA
• Regulations of EIA are still under development (Syria)
• EIA is legally obligatory (Iran, Yemen)
Impact of Irrigation Modernization

• Promoting participation, decentralization and

institutional reform: establishing of WUAs (Iran,
• Improvement of transparency in management
• Government is still steering the process (Syria)
Impact of Irrigation Modernization
(Economic Impact)
• Positive economic impact through:

– increase of the irrigation efficiency in the farms

– the more equal distribution of water to each farm unit
– the better yields due to the reduction of water deficit,
better efficiency of fertilizers, and lower labour costs

• Private sector involvement in the production of modern

irrigation technologies
Impact of Irrigation Modernization
(Social Impact)
• Changing of traditional patterns of irrigation, water rights,
access to irrigation water, and equality of share

• Enhancing user participation and rural livelihood (Iran,


• Production of valuable food crops, enhance standard of

living and reducing migration (Jordan)
Impact of Irrigation Modernisation
(Environmental Impact)
• Negative impacts:
– impact of physical infrastructure on ecosystems
– resettlement issues
– health impacts

• Positive impact:
– minimizing environmental pollution through appropriate
irrigation management practices
– improvement of water quality
– water resources conservation
• Irrigation modernisation initiatives in the region largely driven
by the international donors and the exacerbating water
scarcity problems
• Practical implementation of modernisation falls short to the
expectations of national policies
• Dominance of technical solutions and technology transfer
• Costs (O&M) associated with modernisation interventions are
partially recovered with flat rate fees that have little impact on
increasing water use efficiency
• Positive impact on the environment and sustainability of
resources is associated with all modernisation interventions
• Nevertheless, environmental impact assessment and social
impact assessment still need to be strengthened and properly