Irrigation system operation practices - A handbook by Central Water Commission (1990)

This handbook on “Irrigation System Operation Practices” aims to build in a scientific approach as well as homogeneity in renewing the irrigation practices in the country.

For increasing agricultural productivity from existing irrigation systems, improved operation of the systems coupled with timely maintenance of the systems has a major role to play.

The handbook has been divided into nine chapters keeping in view the various aspects which will make an operation plan effective, efficient and acceptable. The aspect of user’s inputs and needs has been given proper recognition in developing these chapters:

  • Chapter I describes the water-resource scenario of India and provides an assessment of the utilizable quantity of water by different authorities within the limitations of physiographic conditions, socio-political environment, legal and constitutional constraints and the technology so far used. While pointing out that increasing demand for other than irrigation may soon cause a strain on water resources it has been stressed that improvements in management for better agricultural yields with reducing quantity of water should be the course henceforth.
  • Chapter II deals with irrigation system components, existing operation practices in northern, southern, eastern and central zones of the country. For example in the northern zone – the operation is ‘supply based’ where canals are run on rotational basis according to predetermined schedules, while below the outlet ‘warabandi’ system of water distribution is followed. In this chapter, the objectives enshrined in the National Water Policy, 1987 relevant to system operation, have been highlighted
  • Chapter III deals with the knowledge and background information which the System Manager should gather for preparing a realistic operation plan, like physical and technical details of the system, climate, topography and soils. River basin development, availability of surface flow, status of ground water, drainage status, crops and cropping activity, design principles of canals, maintenance needs and implementation, feedback from farmers, status of communication, statutory provisions and responsibilities of various functionaries regarding operation of a system have also been described.
  • Chapter IV highlights the various field and hydraulic surveys required for an improved operation strategy. Use and maintenance of flow control structures in the system for operation control have been stressed. Periodic measurement of channel losses (either by inflow-outflow method or ponding method) has been emphasized. Unless discharges are regularly measured and data on seepage losses gathered, realistic operation plan may not be possible. Emphasis has also been given for seeking farmers input in system operation.
  • Chapter V deals with the preparation of operation plan, the need, objectives and types of operation plans. The steps required to be adopted have been listed.
  • Chapter VI deals an important aspect of dissemination of operation plan amongst irrigation staff and beneficiaries for taking decisions about crops/irrigated area/sowing time and on winning confidence, increasing responsive attitude and acceptability. That the O & M staff should know broad assumptions, methodology, procedures, quantity of water planned, periods of supply to have better understanding for taking action in time has been highlighted. The chapter suggests the information to be disseminated, the delivery schedules, time and periods of supply, opening and closing dates of canals.
  • Chapter VII stresses the need for a reliable and fast communication network which is very important in irrigation management. Precise and accurate planning, implementation, monitoring of water deliveries involves collection of meteorological data, weather forecast, information about crops, irrigated area, sowing times and critical growth stages.
  • Chapter VIII deals with need for monitoring, objectives of monitoring, existing monitoring procedures and improvements required. Regular monitoring of physical constituents of the infrastructure, climatological data, water availability, water releases in canals, groundwater, crops – their patterns and delta of water applied, yields, and farmers’ response to water distribution has been emphasized for evaluation of  the projects performance. The formats needed for reporting each of the above parameters have been appended. 
  • Chapter IX the last chapter in this handbook is on training and emphasizes the need for a more comprehensive understanding of irrigation management and its prerequisites like precise water control, reliability of supply, increased availability of water to farmers, equity in distribution. Some of the topics for training of various filed staff have been identified along a broad approach for designing the training program by laying down the job requirements and then working out the training topics. Likewise the need to train farmers in the field has been emphasized. It has been suggested that training activity need not be centralized for all levels, rather field (on-site) training has been stressed.

The manual can be downloaded below -




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