Benchmarking Irrigation Performance and Projection of Irrigation Water Demand in the Nile Basin
The NBI Secretariat (Nile-Sec) launched its SWRA in 2015 and completed the first phase in 2016. The SWRA is aimed at developing options of measures (water resources infrastructure and management options) to meet the growing water demand in the NB sustainably and reduce mounting stress on the river system and minimize water allocation related tensions among the riparian countries. The first phase of the analysis focused on water supply and demand assessment and yielded initial estimates of water availability and water demands/uses as for the base year 2014 and projections into 2050. Further, a NB water resources model was developed, which included existing water infrastructure and planned water infrastructure investments to be implemented in the 2050-time horizon. According to the plans compiled from the NB countries, irrigated agriculture is expected to expand by approximately 60 percent during the projection period. Implicitly, irrigated agriculture will remain the main water user in the NB and is estimated to consume up to 75 – 80 % of the basin water in the foreseeable future. The first phase of the SWRA estimated irrigation water demand for the baseline (2014) and projection time horizon (2050) and estimated water savings under scenarios of irrigation efficiency improvements. All projections were made based on indicative plans of implementation for various irrigation projects obtained from national planning documents of the NB riparian countries. Despite these efforts to understand irrigation water demand-supply within the NB, there are gaps in data sets, particularly lack of integrated economic modelling of water use in terms of assessing the value of irrigation water. A limitation of the first phase assessment was that the impact on food security and water utilization, resulting from increased water productivity, was not analyzed across the basin. For example, the assessment did not analyze the impact of optimal planning of cropping patterns on specific climate and soil conditions. In view of these gaps, the Nile-Sec intends to refine current estimates of agricultural water demand/use and projections of system use. Further, to support sustainable and efficient investment planning to meet the growing water demand, the Nile-Sec plans to develop options for water savings to inform agricultural water use through measures such as adoption of improved irrigation technologies, optimization of cropping patterns across the basin and other measures that can result in substantial water savings across the NB.