Timeliness of irrigation

Performance indicators and impact on agricultural production in the Sone Irrigation System, Bihar


Despite considerable discussion of the importance of timeliness as a key dimension of irrigation performance, few studies have assessed how well irrigation systems deliver timely water supplies, nor the magnitude of the effect on agricultural production. This paper lays out indicators of timeliness of irrigation supply which distinguish between deliveries which meet crop needs, and surplus water supplies which cannot be used by crops. These indicators are then applied to empirical data from the Sone Irrigation System of Bihar, India. Using these indicators in an analysis of the contribution of irrigation to rice production shows that incorporating measures of timeliness explains much more of the variability in agricultural production than do simple measures of total water applications over a season. Results of production functions show that if water deliveries cannot be matched with crop requirements, they have a negative, rather than a positive, impact on yields. Water scarcity has the greatest adverse impact in production in the middle of the season, while surpluses are most damaging at the beginning and end of the season. Temporal redistribution from surplus periods to times of water scarcity therefore offers considerable scope to increase productivity without increasing water use.

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Meinzen-Dick, R. Timeliness of irrigation. Irrig Drainage Syst 9, 371–387 (1995). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00881622

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Key words

  • agricultural production
  • Bihar
  • India
  • irrigation
  • performance
  • rice
  • production function
  • canals
  • tubewells