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Multiple-use management in a large irrigation system: Benefits of distributed secondary storage

Lookup NU author(s): John Gowing


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Large-scale canal irrigation projects are commonly seen as profligate users of water. Their low water productivity has been attributed by many authors to deficiencies in management or to actions by farmers to circumvent management control over water distribution. Inadequate design has sometimes been cited as a contributing factor, but the relationship between design and manageability has received too little attention. In most conventional largescale irrigation systems imperfect matching between water supply and demand is an inescapable fact of life that leads to operational spillages and low efficiency. Provision of auxiliary storage reservoirs at strategic points within the canal system can buffer this mismatch and improve service delivery and also aid recovery of return flows. Such reservoirs may bring additional benefits in that they provide opportunities for multiple-use management and increased productivity of irrigation water. This paper presents a case study of Mahaweli System H in Sri Lanka, which incorporates a large number of secondary reservoirs within its 25000 ha command area. The paper examines current operational performance and considers scope for and constraints to multiple-use management. © 2004 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Gowing JW, Li Q, Gunawardhana T

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Irrigation and Drainage Systems

Year: 2004

Volume: 18

Issue: 1

Pages: 57-71

ISSN (print): 0168-6291

ISSN (electronic): 1573-0654

Publisher: Springer


DOI: 10.1023/


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