Transferring water from irrigation to higher valued uses: a case study of the Zhanghe irrigation system in China
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- Loeve, R., Dong, B., Hong, L. et al. Paddy Water Environ (2007) 5: 263. doi:10.1007/s10333-007-0090-x
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The Zhanghe irrigation system (ZIS) is located in the Yangtze River Basin approximately 200 km west of Wuhan in Hubei Province. The reservoir was designed for multiple uses—irrigation, flood control, domestic water supply, industrial use, aquaculture, and hydropower. Over a period of more than 30 years a steadily increasing amount of water has been transferred from irrigation to other uses. Activities on the part of government, irrigation system managers, and farmers made this transfer possible with only modest decline in rice production. Most important factor was the steady increase in rice yields. The water pricing system provided an incentive for ZIS to reduce irrigation releases. With the steady decline in releases, farmers were forced to find ways to save water. Farmers improved existing ponds and built new ones to store water (improved infrastructure). Access to pond water on demand facilitated the adoption of alternate wetting and drying (technology) particularly in dry years. The establishment of volumetric pricing (price policy) and water user associations (institutions) may also have provided incentives for adoption of AWD, but more research is needed to establish their impact. These activities taken together can be seen as potentially complementary measures. Farmers received no direct compensation for the transfer of water, but recently farm taxes have been reduced or altogether abolished. Further reduction in water releases from the ZIS reservoir could adversely affect rice production in normal or dry years.