Competing demands for scarce water resources have become one of the key issues in sustaining agriculture and creating opportunities for peace in the Middle East. Population pressures and diminishing water supplies, combined with water quality problems are some of the challenges that Middle Eastern countries are encountering. Major emphasis is currently being placed on desalinization and water reuse or recycling to meet the immediate water resource needs of agricultural, industrial and urban users. However, these technologies require large investments in research, construction, and operation and maintenance costs. At the same time, minimal funding is being provided for the development and implementation of information-intensive water conservation and irrigation scheduling techniques that already have a proven potential for considerable water saving with a relatively small marginal investment. As such, this course of action is imperative. Success in implementing these technologies, however, is highly dependent on providing site-specific research, technology transfer and water conservation information directly to growers.
In terms of evaluating the water demands for the arid and semi-arid areas of the Middle East, approximately 10,000 cubic meters of water per hectare per year is a fairly typical irrigation rate. However, actual water application amounts or requirements per hectare vary considerably depending on crops, soil structure, microclimatic conditions, and irrigation methods. Although overall water application amounts have not changed significantly over the last decade, significant aid is being provided to the farmers throughout the Middle East to purchase or install more-efficient drip, sprinkler, or surface irrigation systems. With modern irrigation methods and management, water delivery amounts could be reduced by as much as half the current irrigation rates if irrigation scheduling practices were fully implemented.
Water delivery and distribution systems on Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian lands have been sufficiently developed to employ a modern irrigation scheduling practice—the Irrigation Management Information Systems (IMIS). The major factors in successfully implementing on-farm water conservation is the establishment of a localized knowledge base and farmer training to use modern irrigation practices that rely on improved irrigation scheduling methods. This project would offer the necessary theoretical and applied research, education and training needed to provide this local fine-tuning as well as to create the technological and human infrastructure required to implement long-term change.