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Water Productivity in a Rigid Irrigation Delivery System


The rotational irrigation water delivery (warabandi) system practiced in the Indus river basin of Pakistan has continued for 100 years. Irrigation water allocated to the farmers under the warabandi system is proportional to farm size and is fixed. This rigid allocation system has been partly justified by its contribution to social equity though this may have been at the cost of economic gains. In order to assess the operation of warabandi’s basic rules, a farmers’ survey was completed from 124 farmers located on five watercourses. A questionnaire was administered to each farmer and farm management data were gathered. As fresh water resources are under stress and becoming scarce their efficient use in all applications should be assured in water allocations. It is shown from the survey results that water allocation based on very limited criteria does not maximize the socio-economic benefits gained from the use of scarce water. Thus, it is suggested that the existence or non-existence of fresh groundwater resources along with other critical variables should be taken into consideration when making canal water allocation decisions. Missed water deliveries due to failure of the canal system appear to be the largest cause of losses. Water charges need to be increased to fund large improvements in canal maintenance programs. It is pointed out that a framework should be developed as a tool to improve water productivity for Pakistan. This should include: consideration of the gross area of a tertiary canal, sensitivity of crop growth stage to water shortage, crop value, bias of allocation towards most water use efficient areas and water use efficient crops, the potential losses from water deficiency.

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Correspondence to Noor ul Hassan Zardari.

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Zardari, N.u.H., Cordery, I. Water Productivity in a Rigid Irrigation Delivery System. Water Resour Manage 23, 1025–1040 (2009).

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  • Warabandi
  • Rotational delivery system
  • Watercourse
  • Water allocation
  • Economic value of water