The large-scale, centrally controlled irrigation systems installed across Asia in the 1960s and 1970s have been stagnating in recent years. They were largely designed to irrigate rice and wheat crops, but many of today’s farmers are growing more lucrative crops like vegetables to meet the demands of the wealthy city dwellers. This type of farming requires demand-driven water supplies, rather than the supply-driven allocations provided by the old systems.

Farmers are increasingly pumping groundwater to meet their water needs, leaving behind the old systems and institutions that managed them. Therefore, the authors of Revitalizing Asia’s irrigation drew up five investment strategies to reinvigorate irrigation across Asia and published them alongside their scientific findings.

These findings included modernizing irrigation schemes for tomorrow’s needs, supporting farmers’ self-installed irrigation schemes, and expanding capacity and knowledge.


An assessment undertaken for Asia

An assessment of the extent to which Asia can boost its agricultural productivity was undertaken by IWMI and partners (2009).

The WATERSIM model was used to generate scenarios showing how the production of food, water use and irrigation requirements might change in the future, given certain economic and environmental conditions.

The results of the modeling along with an assessment of Asia’s irrigation were published in Revitalizing Asia’s irrigation: To sustainably meet tomorrow’s food needs.

These results revealed that three quarters of the additional food supply required in Asia could be met by boosting performance from existing irrigated areas.