logoSouthwest Environmental Limited
Environmental Consultancy Services to Industry, Business and Individuals
02076 920 670
01392 927 961
01612 970 026 
01173 270 092 



Since pre-Roman times, communities in dry places from Iran to Morocco have built underground canal systems to channel water from the mountains to fertile, but dry, valley floors. Kings in Sri Lanka built ancient hydro-civilisations on cascades of small reservoirs or tanks I.

With population growth these limited resources become ever more stretched, and embroiled / corrupt governments have little financial / technical resource to improve them.


Many areas of the world such as Queens Land Australia have very distinct wet and dry seasons, where you can experience no rain fall for six months, and then it rains so much that you can only travel on horseback due to the softness of the ground. In large parts of South Asia’s monsoon region, more than 90 per cent of the annual rainfall comes in less than 100 hoursI. 


The Source of the irrigation water is commonly misunderstood / ignored important, abstraction from surface water has obvious effects; rivers dry up, lakes stop to fill, yet even in these circumstances, people over abstract regardless, until the inevitable “crunch”.


The Aryl Sea is one such example, where the visual effects are there for all to see, where rivers that fed the lake were in some cases pumped dry to irrigate the Russian steps.


Groundwater is far less visual in terms of damage done, and far less robust in its recovery from over exploitation. In many parts of India, Africa and Australia Crop growth is sustained by “ground water miningE”; abstraction of ground water at a faster rate than it will recover, an aquifer may take tens / hundreds of years to recover -  if ever. People can’t wait that long, so many areas are heading for big problems.

“In Gujarat, India, groundwater levels in key aquifers have dropped from 10 metres to 150 metres below the surface within one generation”.ISustainability Consultants


Pie Chart Showing Abstraction status of groundwater in the Punjab Area. D


Source: CGWB, North Western Region & Deptt. of Irrigation, Punjab, 2005as cited in Tiwana et al., 2007


Genetic Selection / Engineering of crops has lead to further “addiction” to the use of irrigation “In the absence of additional inputs of fertilizers and water, the new seeds perform worse than indigenous varieties. The gain in output is insignificant compared to the increase in inputsC. Companies such as Monsanto give HYV (High Yielding Varity) seed to farmers across India, strains which require high volume of water and artificial fertiliser, in an effort to deplete seed stock of indigenous varieties.

Corruption may also be a problem; particularly in Africa, which has the highest densities of corrupt governments anywhere in the world. Transparency International have produce a very in depthI report in to corruption in the water resources. With regards to Water supply for food growth Frank Rijsberman notes that “‘trickle-up’ bribery diverts resources from the sector and how large-scale users benefit from biased policies”.  The Diagram below shows the levels of corruption in Europe Asia, and Africa.Sustainability Consultants

Rijsberman’s work is focused in South East Asia; he identifies corruption at virtually every level throughout the irrigation system. Some cases are terrible, the Canal Systems used in Pakistan lead to the greatest inequalities:

“Equity, though, is often sacrificed. Farmers who take extra water generally use it for water gulping crops such as rice, sugarcane and high-yield cotton. Meanwhile, downstreamers can hardly produce the minimum amount of staple food and cash crops needed to survive. Downstreamers become fourfold loser:. They pay water fees whether or not they get water. They pay bribes to get their rightful quota. Their productivity suffers due to erratic water supplies. And they pay more to support the irrigation system than those who use their influence to avoid paying fees. Corruption also undermines incentives to improve the system – for example, de-silting and reducing flow variability – as this would reduce the power of irrigation officials and influential farmers.” I



Water Transfer Schemes have been put to good use in many countries around the world including:


  1. PRC - South North Transfer Scheme. Originally proposed in 1952 by Mao Zedong to rectify the uneven distribution between Northern and Southern China. Massive quantities are involved up to 44.8 billion m3 per year are to be transferred. Cyprus - Southern Conveyor commissioned in 1984 the scheme involved a system of dams and pipe lines to distribute water across (Greek) Cyprus.  It also incorporates the use of treated sewage water from major settlements, which is stored in dams / lagoons for dry periods.


It is the storage of this wet season “glut” that allows use of water throughout the year. In many situations the construction of a dam may provide protection from flooding and a reliable water supply (hydro electric power is another bonus). One such example is the Aswan Dam.  The dam mitigated the effects of these dangerous floods such as in 1964 and 1973 and of threatening droughts in 1972-73 and the drought of 1983-84 that devastated East Africa and SomaliaF”. 

Subterranean storage is an option which is not often used but has been tried in California. The Arvin-Edison Water Storage DistrictEstores water in a reservoir beneath the land where the water will eventually be used” This is again provides a reliable source of irrigation water throughout the dry season. This method has also been tried in Cyprus, with limited success, where the beds of rivers are scoured to increase infiltration, in to underlying unconfined aquifers. Sri Lanka and other countries have attempted to stimulate groundwater by subsidising ‘agrowells’, large-diameter, brick- and concrete-lined wells that serve as both short-term storage reservoirs and groundwater extraction points.


Water Resource Management Strategy, this is encouraged with loans from the World Bank (Put Simply in their kids section).

One way is to provide funding directly to remote communities so that they can create their own safe water systems. Another way is to help governments manage their natural water resources without harming the environment, and to support the development of new solutions for delivering more water to more people in a sustainable wayH.  

In Peru funding from the World Bank has gone towards: 

  1. Strengthening WRM capacity at the national level
  2. Improving WRM in selected River Basins

Establishing a water balance in a country is a crucial step towards maintaining the delicate relationship between man and nature. It is crucial that any policy is enforced effectively. In large dispersed countries this can be difficult, where human resources are stretched, and more often than not human needs in times of drought mean that the environment is completely overlooked. 


Stronger policy is needed to tackle corruption measures can include I:

  1. Stronger internal governance.
  2. Rotating tasks (Give people different tasks every few years).
  3. Re-tendering outsourced services at regular intervals (Used in France).
  4. A transparency offensive.
  5. Social audits for collective oversight.
  6. Standardisation.

AA -  https://www.waterencyclopedia.com/  -  31/11/09

A -David Evans - Lecture Notes

B - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dujiangyan_Irrigation_System  - 01/12/09

C -  https://livingheritage.org/green-revolution.htm    - 01/12/09

D- https://www.punenvis.nic.in/water_sg_status2.htm - 01/12/09

E - Applied Principals of Hydrology - John C Manning

F- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aswan_Dam

G- World Bank - Project ID P110538

H- World Bank - https://youthink.worldbank.org/