Improvement of the efficiency of water use in the region
Improved water efficiency is a prerequisite for better water management in the Central Asian region and shall be achieved by reducing water consumption, introducing more effective water use techniques, providing economic incentives for water users, and by changing the attitude of the general public towards water.
Water conservation through improvement of outdated irrigation systems and updated water application methods is of the utmost necessity, as 70% of water of the Basin is currently lost en route to the crops via flooding, seepage or evaporation. Improvements in irrigation techniques and water conservation would not only have positive impacts on agriculture in the region, but would also reduce the amount of water being diverted from rivers in Central Asia, thus increasing the amount of runoff entering the Aral Sea.
The activities in this direction require comprehensive IWRM approach. The project “IWRM development in Fergana valley” presents such example. The project activities started in 2001 include organization and improvement of existing Water Users Associations (WUAs), irrigation and drainage systems' management and operation in selected farms, improvement of monitoring over irrigation water use productivity in Fergana Valley. WUAs were introduced training on water demand planning systems, water accounting techniques, advanced methods for water distribution.
The activities aimed at increasing water productivity, and consequently improving water efficiency are covered within the Project “Water Productivity Improvement at Plot Level” through use of effective technological scheme of irrigation, taking into account the characteristics of each field; use of irrigation water in accordance with the requirements of the crop considering the soil-reclamation conditions, application of the recommended norms of mineral and organic fertilizers within the recommended time schedule.
Considerable potential of increasing water productivity is a shift in agricultural production towards identification of environmentally and economically viable alternative crops.
The efficiency of the system depends on the availability of well-trained operational staff at all levels. Capacity building amongst water users is an important factor to ensure continuity of introduced technologies and methods of water saving.
Raising public awareness
Changing public attitudes to saving water takes time. The process includes changing attitudes to water by the general public. In most cases, the general public does not possess (or does not have an access to) accurate information related to water and is not involved in the development and implementation of plans and strategies aimed at addressing problems, particularly related to water scarcity.
However, the experience gained by the Central Asian countries and the lessons learned under implementation of Public Awareness Component of Water Environmental Management Project (1998-2002) in particular, indicates that it is possible to save water by changing mind sets.
Involving the general public in saving water activities, keeping water sources clean and mitigating the consequences of the environmental crisis in the Aral Sea region would greatly help improve the situation. Raising public awareness rising is not particularly costly, but the changes it can make are comparable to those caused by major changes in infrastructures.
Assistance in the development and implementation of public awareness would substantially contribute to expanding the scope of ongoing activities and to water saving in general.
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