Current Research

Impact of Groundwater Development on Property Rights under Small Tank Systems

Centuries-old small tank irrigation systems continue to support a sizeable number of small farmers. In recent decades, their performance has declined markedly. Various interventions aimed at rehabilitating small tanks have had limited impact. Meanwhile, ready access to low-cost diesel and petrol pumps for groundwater abstraction has radically transformed agrarian systems in small tank areas, and low-cost water on demand has led to increasing commercialization of production in upland areas.
Traditional property rights are also being affected. IWMI is analyzing these impacts on marginal and landless households brought about by the proliferation of groundwater development and the enclosure of state land by more affluent households as privately owned parcels of commercial farming.


Revisiting the Pioneering Participatory Irrigation Management (PIM) Project in Sri Lanka

This study attempts to document past experiences of the Gal Oya water management project and assess the current situation to indicate strategic needs for future water management directions. The Gal Oya water management project implemented during 1981 and 1986 with financial assistance from the USA was a pioneering experiment. The Agrarian Research and Training Institute (ARTI) of Sri Lanka with the help of Cornell University of USA implemented the institutional component of the rehabilitation project funded by USAID and executed by the irrigation department. The Gal Oya experiences

were widely disseminated by these individual researchers attached to two research institutions, ARTI and Cornell University. According to available publications, sweeping changes were introduced to water management practices in order to improve productivity in irrigation systems. The project focused on changing the management within irrigation schemes. This was a very influential experiment carried out in Sri Lanka since 1978, to develop and implement participatory irrigation management, with serious policy implications

Geo-referencing of Shallow Open Wells Using GIS Remote Sensing Technology in the Jaffna and Kalpitiya Regions

IWMI is developing a procedure to use high resolution GIS remote sensing techniques to identify and geo-reference shallow, large-diameter wells (also known as agro-wells) in the Jaffna and Kalpitiya regions. These will be test areas. Shallow wells are very vulnerable to high extraction rates and their cumulative impact can have serious implications for groundwater resources. The first step in managing groundwater in these aquifers is to develop a robust inventory of existing agro-wells. The technology can be applied throughout

the country where agro-wells exist and will help in groundwater modeling and studying trends in increase or decline, to identify areas where groundwater recharge can be implemented.


Review and Vulnerability Mapping on the Impacts of Climate Change in Sri Lanka

IWMI has been reviewing the status of climate change in Sri Lanka and identifying the country’s agricultural vulnerability “hot spots”. A pilot level climate change vulnerability index with three subindices: exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity were further mapped at a district level. These maps indicate typical farming districts in the island that are more sensitive to climate change than the rest of the country, owing to their heavy reliance on primary agriculture. These areas are the most vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change in the form of droughts, floods and cyclones.

Working with Local Universities to Produce Up-to-date Maps of Geochemical Characteristics in the Jaffna Peninsula to Redevelop Groundwater Irrigated Agriculture

The Jaffna Peninsula once enjoyed a higher level of agricultural development than most other parts of Sri Lanka. Three decades of civil conflict seriously disturbed civilian life and agriculture in the region and much of the irrigation infrastructure fell into a state of serious disrepair and neglect. The end of the conflict offers tremendous opportunities to redevelop groundwater irrigated agriculture in the peninsula. IWMI is working with researchers from the universities of Jaffna and Peradeniya, and the Institute of Fundamental Studies (Kandy) to produce up-to-date maps of the geochemical characteristics of four important aquifers. Researchers will map the geochemistry and water quality of the aquifer systems and groundwater recharge areas, estimate recharge rates, identify chemical and pathogen sources in groundwater, and identify likely agricultural and non-agricultural sources of contamination. Data and information from these studies will be made available for future research, and water and land use monitoring.

Improving the Sustainability of Impacts of Agricultural Water Management Interventions in Challenging Contexts – IFAD-funded project

This project addresses a well-articulated need for better project design, implementation and management in order to increase the effectiveness of rural poverty reduction interventions by IFAD and other investors. The goal of the project is to enhance the livelihoods of poor rural farming communities in challenging contexts through improved knowledge of agricultural water management (AWM). Its purpose is to support development programs, particularly IFAD country programs, to enhance their effectiveness and success to improve the livelihoods of poor rural households in challenging contexts. The project will do so by combining results from earlier studies and new thinking within IFAD regarding innovative approaches to deal with complexity in AWM, with concrete case studies in challenging environments to come up with new management response capacities for these contexts. This project will complement and draw from two other IWMI-led projects evaluating AWM interventions in different settings and scenarios in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, and add the additional component of analysis of challenging contexts. Results will include context-specific guidance with validated typology and country studies, evidence of promising public and private investments opportunities, key knowledge and timely support to IFAD programs, and support for informed investment decision-making on AWM interventions.

Sri Lanka Water Data Portal

IWMI recently initiated the development of a prototype system for managing national water resources data and information to provide online access. This system was presented to various stakeholders including several ministries, the Irrigation Department and the National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWSDB). The Ministry of Water Resources had also initiated a project to establish a water resources management unit and they found that the prototype matches well with components of the project. Discussions are underway as to how to bring the two initiatives together.