Submitted to: Workshop on Modernization of Irrigation Water Delivery Systems
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/21/1999
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: Irrigation system modernization involves changes in the infrastructure of the delivery system. The purpose of modernization is to facilitate water management, both at the delivery system and farm levels. Because modernization is generally perceived as an engineering project, modernization planning typically focuses on engineering and macroeconomic issues, and less importance is given to management, usually relying on broad assumptions about how the delivery system and the on-farm irrigation systems are managed. If the modernized system is incompatible with existing management practices or if extensive management practice changes are needed to take advantage of the new infrastructure, then the modernization project will likely fail to achieve its objectives. This paper discusses some research experiences with methodologies for assessing management of delivery and on-farm irrigation systems. These studies show that interdisciplinary approaches are needed to understand management, as technical, social, organizational, and even political factors affect water managers' decisions. Systems analysis, action research, and knowledge- based systems are tools that can be used to characterize irrigation management. These approaches should be useful to policy makers and consultants involved in the development of modernization plans.
Technical Abstract: Modernization planning requires an understanding of how the delivery and on-farm irrigation systems are actually managed. Management practices are a function of irrigation infrastructure and other resources and also of the human environment in which irrigation systems are operated. This paper summarizes two research experiences with methodologies for assessing management and performance of irrigation delivery systems, on-farm irrigation systems, and their interface. The purpose of the first study was to test an organizational-development process as a means for improving management of an irrigated agricultural region. The second study aimed to understand the irrigation management practices of a group of farmers served by a common lateral canal and to predict the water demands of those farmers based on a computer model of their irrigation rules. Results from the first study revealed some of the complexities involved in managing delivery yand on-farm irrigation systems and demonstrated that even a qualitative understanding of how management impacts performance can lead to positive management changes. Results from the second study showed that farm water demands can be modeled based on an understanding of farmers' irrigations rules.