Subsurface Irrigation in Drought-Hit Province

Subsurface Irrigation in Drought-Hit ProvinceSubsurface Irrigation in Drought-Hit Province

A plan to use subsurface irrigation system in drought-ravaged Sistan and Baluchestan Province in southeast Iran was first proposed by the ministry of agriculture in March 2014 and was approved by parliament despite the high budgetary needs.

The provincial head of agriculture Reza Najafi elaborated the details of the project, which was launched on Feb.2.

On the uniqueness of the project in the Middle East, he said, "The entire $500 million funding for the project came from the National Development Fund of Iran.

Using subsurface irrigation – or subirrigation - system allows us to water the farms even when allocation of water is challenging," the Persian daily 'Iran' reported.

According to Najafi, when water distribution is difficult, the pipes may be used to draw water from the 'Chah Nimeh Dam' which can provide 400 million cubic meters of water for agriculture. "It is our agricultural water guarantee."  

  Farmlands Covered by the Project

Fifty thousand hectares of farmlands in the province are covered by the project. "During the eight annual irrigation periods, 8000 cubic meters of water per hectare will be allocated," the official said.

To facilitate work of the key water project 7000 km of pipes has been provisioned, and the project is expected to be completed within three years.

"The main objective of the project is to help reduce and prevent water waste.  We lose millions of liters of water annually due to outdated and inefficient irrigation methods," the paper quoted him as saying.

Over the past several months senior officials have warned that the water crises is serious and the likelihood of water rationing is high this summer, including in the major metropolises. The agro sector is said to be the main culprit due to the heavy water wastage (almost 70 percent) by farmers across the country.

  Water Allocation

Commending the advantages of sub irrigation systems, he said, "In the past farmlands closer to the irrigation path received the bulk of the water, while farmers farther down barely managed to water their lands twice a year."

With the subsurface irrigation system, however, water would be distributed fairly among farmers. He expressed hope that the installation of subirrigation systems would help curb local disputes between farmers over water, some of whom had to go to the court to settle their disputes.

  High-Pressure Irrigation

Farmlands in southern Sistan and Baluchestan Province are being irrigated using high-pressure irrigation systems, also called sprinkler or overhead irrigation.

"Currently 11,000 hectares of farmlands are using the overhead irrigation system, and another 1500 hectares are expected to be covered by the same system before the  year is out (March 20)."

The overhead irrigation project has a budget of 1,000 billion rials ($292 million) and will provide water for 100,000 hectares within the next four years.