Why is so much water used for irrigation? Raising the question in the context of unsustainable water consumption practices, this paper provides a clear overview of the issues and presents the steps that must be taken if both the urban and rural poor are not to bear the brunt of water shortages.
An increasing demand on water for drinking, urban domestic use and rural irrigation mean that there is now competition between sectors for limitedwater supplies, and differences in pricing result in urban water demand overriding agricultural demand. Although technologies are available to address some of the water demand challenges, a shift in how natural resources are managed is also required. Water and land need to be managed at basin and landscape scale, by reallocating water among users. Water cycle management must incorporate both 'blue' and 'green' water, which implies a new way of conceptualising and approaching water management issues. The paper finds, for example, that the traditional distinction between rainfed and irrigated agriculture is no longer relevant. At the same time, the value to society generated by these multiple, interlinked uses of water needs to increase.
Increasing the productivity of water is central. The paper provides some key examples on how this can be done, namely by:
enhancing the safe and productive use of wastewater in agriculture: making an asset out of wastewater
multiple use systems: single water systems for domestic use, agriculture, aquaculture, agroforestry and livestock
supplemental and micro-irrigation: small-scale, low-cost technology that provides an entry level for poor people.
The authors conclude that water management must be incorporated into all development approaches to achieve all the Millennium Development Goals, not just the water and sanitation target. Conversely, few Millennium Development Goals can be achieved without progress in the water sector.