Multiple Uses of Water in Irrigated Areas
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Although irrigation systems have long been evaluated andmanaged as though they existed only to produce irrigatedcrops, in fact many irrigation systems also provide water forother uses, especially in much of Asia. The quantities ofwater used in these activities may be small, but these useshave high value in terms of household income, nutrition, andhealth. Recognizing the multiple uses of water in irrigationsystems is critical for better water allocation policy. First,the value of water in irrigation systems has been undervaluedbecause of a failure to recognize the many uses. A moreaccurate assessment that includes all uses will better informdecisions about allocating water (and financial resources)between irrigation and other uses. Second, even withinirrigation systems, taking all uses into account can lead tomore productive and environmentally sustainable use of water.Third, recognizing the rights of all users of water can leadto more equitable and socially sustainable outcomes ofmanagement, rehabilitation, and any proposed reallocation ofwater resources. Recognizing all uses of water makes watermanagement and economic and institutional analyses morecomplex. Because many of the interactions between uses areaffected by water quality at least as much as quantity, italso brings environmental and health issues to the fore. Thisarticle reviews these issues, drawing upon the case studyarticles from Sri Lanka and India, which are presented in thisspecial issue.
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