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Water Sustainability

In some areas of Pakistan , sufficient rainfall is available for crop growth, but many other areas require irrigation. For irrigation systems to be sustainable they require proper management (to avoid salinization) and must not use more water from their source than is naturally replenished, otherwise the water source becomes, in effect, a non-renewable resource.

Improvements in water well drilling technology and submersible pumps combined with the development of drip irrigation and low pressure pivots have made it possible to regularly achieve high crop yields where reliance on rainfall alone previously made this level of success unpredictable. However, this progress has come at a price, in that in many areas where this has occurred, such as the PUNJAB, SINDH, NWFP, BALOCHISTAN, AJK, FATA and FANA , the water is being used at a greater rate than its rate of recharge.

Several steps should be taken to develop drought-resistant farming systems even in “normal” years, including both policy and management actions:

1) Improving water conservation and storage measures.

2) Providing incentives for selection of drought-tolerant crop species.

3) Using reduced-volume irrigation systems.

4) Managing crops to reduce water loss.

5) Not planting at all.

Indicators for sustainable water resource development are:

– Internal renewable water resources : This is the average annual flow of rivers and groundwater generated from endogenous precipitation, after ensuring that there is no double counting. It represents the maximum amount of water resource produced within the boundaries of a country. This value, which is expressed as an average on a yearly basis, is invariant in time (except in the case of proved climate change). The indicator can be expressed in three different units: in absolute terms (km3/yr), in mm/yr (it is a measure of the humidity of the country), and as a function of population (m3/person per yr).

– Global renewable water resources: This is the sum of internal renewable water resources and incoming flow originating outside the country. Unlike internal resources, this value can vary with time if upstream development reduces water availability at the border. Treaties ensuring a specific flow to be reserved from upstream to downstream countries may be taken into account in the computation of global water resources in both countries.

– Dependency ratio: This is the proportion of the global renewable water resources originating outside the country, expressed in percentage. It is an expression of the level to which the water resources of a country depend on neighbouring countries.

– Water withdrawal : In view of the limitations described above, only gross water withdrawal can be computed systematically on a country basis as a measure of water use. Absolute or per-person value of yearly water withdrawal gives a measure of the importance of water in the country’s economy. When expressed in percentage of water resources, it shows the degree of pressure on water resources. A rough estimate shows that if water withdrawal exceeds a quarter of global renewable water resources of a country, water can be considered a limiting factor to development and, reciprocally, the pressure on water resources can have a direct impact on all sectors, from agriculture to environment and fisheries.