Implications of the modernization of irrigation systems
ABSTRACT: This chapter looks at the relevance of an ex post analysis of the National Irrigation modernization programme implemented in Spain, possibly the largest in terms of surface area and investment in the whole of Europe and one of the largest programmes in the world. This plan was a state led effort to increase water efficiency in irrigation and generate water savings at plot and basin level, particularly to reduce water stress during drought periods. This was within a paradigm where irrigated agriculture had traditionally primed over other economic activities and water uses, and which promised the achievement of substantial water savings. There is now some evidence, after the completion of the programme, that planned water savings have not been met, and in some cases the increase in water efficiency application seems to have entailed an expansion in irrigated land and/or some crop changes, leading to potentially a higher overall local irrigation water consumption. However there are other unintended consequences and in some cases co-benefits in terms of reduced use of fertilisers due to fertirrigation, and better traceability and control on water use due to technological improvements. Yet the lack of reliable and consistent information on the actual aggregated consequences of this large public investment programme highlights the need for a detailed assessment on the consequences and logic of the modernization process. A set of indicators and a range of ways to implement these programmes are suggested to help identify and make a balance of the results vs the investment required, with views to a future modernization projects.