Surface irrigation performance of date palms under water scarcity in arid irrigated lands

  • Zied Haj-Amor
  • Henk Ritzema
  • Hossein Hashemi
  • Salem Bouri
Original Paper


In this paper, a study on the performance of surface irrigation of date palms in a Tunisian arid area (Douz oasis) is presented. The study is conducted in 16 plots with various sizes and soil textures over a 4-year period (2012–2015). In the first step, an assessment of total water requirements of the date palms is carried out. Then, the surface irrigation performance is analyzed using three indicators, i.e., the relative water supply (RWS) indicator, the uniformity index of water distribution (D U ), and the water application efficiency (E a ). Finally, the irrigation management problems are identified. The results indicate that in the arid Tunisian Saharan oases, the soil texture, plot size, and farmers’ practices (especially irrigation duration) have significant effects on surface irrigation performance. The average annual net irrigation requirements of date palms are about 2400 mm. The RWS increases from 1.8 in the smaller plots (0.5 ha) to 3.6 in the largest plots (2.5 ha), implying that the increase in the plot size requires an excessive water supply. D U decreases from 80.7 in the 0.5 ha plots to 65.4 in the 2.5 ha plots; however, no significant difference in the E a is observed. The results show that the soil texture has no influence on the RWS and D U , but the E a is significantly higher in the loamy-sand soils (46.7%) compared to the sandy soils (36.3%). Overall, RWS indicator is higher than 1 (RWS = 2.6) implying excessive irrigation supply to the system. Although D U is relatively uniform (> 60%), E a is relatively low (< 50%) indicating that the current irrigation management is inefficient. These findings have a paramount importance for improving irrigation water management in the Tunisian Saharan oases.


Arid area Irrigation Performance Plot size Soil texture Water supply 



The authors are grateful for support from the Institute of Arid Areas of Medenine (Tunisia). Also, we thank the farmers of Douz Oasis for the help during the field works. The authors appreciate the valuable comments by Dr. Daniel Merchán Elena, based at the Geological Survey of Spain (IGME), which helped us improve the quality of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Saudi Society for Geosciences 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zied Haj-Amor
    • 1
  • Henk Ritzema
    • 2
  • Hossein Hashemi
    • 3
  • Salem Bouri
    • 1
  1. 1.Water, Energy and Environment LaboratoryNational Engineering School of SfaxSfaxTunisia
  2. 2.Water Resources Management GroupWageningen UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Center for Middle Eastern Studies and Department of Water Resources EngineeringLund UniversityLundSweden

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