Agriculture Corner

Water Conservation Techniques in Arid or Dryland Agriculture Systems


Water is a jewel for arid agriculture farmers. Rainfall being the chief source of water for cropping purposes in these areas is precious. Arid areas are characterized by very low rainfall (less than 100mm as defined by FAO) high temperature and barren land. Even after the rainfall, the rate of evaporation and evapo-transpiration from water body structures and plants is high that available water loses at a fast pace.

How Arid or Dryland are Formed?

Arid or Dryland are formed naturally. This happens when topographic, climatic and oceanographic elements create hindrances in the way of moisture-bearing weather systems to reach that zone.

Special Treatment for Arid Lands

To sustain agricultural activities and generate food and livelihoods of the farmers of arid zones, special measures are taken in each cropping activity right from sowing to harvesting and post-harvesting. However, water has central importance in this scenario and conservation of available water (through any mode of precipitation) requires special structures and techniques.

This article will highlight 5 best suited and easy to install methods of water conservation in Arid or Dryland agriculture systems.

1. Micro or Drip Irrigation

This is the most effective and efficient way of water conservation technique suitable for arid lands. Not only this method helps in water conservation, but it also help in soil conservation. In this method, water is delivered to plants from soil surface using a system of tubes that bear small holes and other destructive outlets. This method also allows the application of fertilizer by mixing it with irrigation water through Drip irrigation. It has been estimated that drip irrigation saves 50-70 percent water as compare to traditional methods of irrigation and also it supplements more crop production by 20-90 percent due to direct availability of fertilizer to plants.

Drip Irrigation in Arid Agriculture
Drip Irrigation in Arid Agriculture

2. Zai Pits

Another efficient method of water conservation in arid agriculture systems is Zai Pits. These planting pits are made around the plants and trees to conserve water and moisture. The pits are prepared with hands. The excavated soil generated during digging is used to make small ridges around the pits. This helps in capturing maximum rain water. Usually these are 10 inches deep and wide and 3 feet apart (25cm x 25cm holes one meter apart). The objective is to trap rain water to increase moisture around the plant. It also aids in increasing soil fertility especially in dryland or arid regions where occurrence of crusty and degraded soil is common. These pits are then planted with a mixture of crop residues, compost, animal manure and seeds. These are then covered with mulch made of leaves or grass to conserve moisture. This simple looking technique can increase the agriculture produce by 50 percent within three years of practice.

Zai Pits
Zai Pits

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Agriculture Corner

Innovative Water Resource Management in Agriculture


Water is the basic need of life and one of the core elements of sustainability of living beings on planet earth. We have learnt since our childhood that 70 percent of earth surface is covered by water. However, the dilemma is, this large mass of water is not fit for human consumption and agricultural purposes. We are only available with 1 percent of fresh water resources to fulfill our drinking and other farming needs. This situation demands wise and innovative water resource management in agriculture and other sectors of daily life.

Now, I want to divert the focus of my readers towards the population explosion aspect that we are facing for the past 2-3 decades. Population on the globe has increased at an exponential rate. There has been a dramatic escalation of population graph line if you plot years and population number on a graph as shown below.

Population on Earth

Source: United Nations World Population Prospects

The above graph is quite self-explanatory that how we are expanding. Within a century, we have added almost 5 billion people and in coming 2-3 decade, we will be around 9 billion. This fast phase population explosion is on the other hand exerting pressure on the limited resources of the earth. Similarly, food demand is on a high and it will get increase in future as we are adding more mouths to our food basket.  

Now when we link the water availability situation with population, a dark picture comes out as a result. As stated earlier, we are bestowed with only one 1 percent fresh water resources by nature and this resource is limited. On top of it, we are wasting water criminally in domestic and agricultural purposes, thus creating a difficult situation for our coming generations. Water resources are also facing another pressure from the changing climate. Changing rainfall and temperature patterns due to climate change are affecting negatively on water resources. So importance of innovative water resource management in agriculture increases many folds.

Widening Gap of Water Demand and Population

Over the years, because of the factors discussed in previous lines, per capital water availability of water has reduced. In some parts of the world, it has crossed the red line. There is a widening gap between the water demand and population as presented in graph below.

Water Demand and Population


The reason for which I build the case so far is that the changing dynamics of water, climate and population needs new and innovative measures to tackle in order to have sustainability in all forms of life, especially in agriculture. Out of the box approach is needed to address all the issues.

What is Innovative Water Resource Management?

Innovative Water Resource Management is the set of management techniques that include cutting-edge knowledge and innovative approaches including an in-depth understanding of the inherent economic, scientific, social and environmental aspects to manage water resources for its sustainable consumption and to ensure the healthy recharge of water resources.

The advanced countries of the world are investing a great deal on planning and development of Innovative Water Resource Management techniques to ensure minimal water loses and enhanced water use efficiency.

The current trend of water use that is widely practiced in various parts of the world including Asia and Africa is the usage of water only once and then disposal. This trend is harmful and has created water scarce situation in many areas. Innovative Water Resource Management emphasizes more on reuse of available water through processing treatments.

Innovative Water Resource Management from Agriculture Perspective

Water lose in agriculture is lot more as compare to other sectors of the economy. Especially in third world countries, due to lack of technology, water is still used in traditional ways of irrigation in farming that results in excess loss. There are several innovative techniques now available globally to ensure water resource management in agriculture sector.

Though these technologies are expensive, however, their indigenized area specific versions have been developed, keeping in mind the local needs and budget. These are proven beneficial both for farmers and from water management perspective. Some of these Innovative Water Resource Management techniques included;

  1. Hydroponic system to grow vegetables on a media that is water use efficient.

Hydroponic system
  1. Smart Rain Water Harvesting System by building community level small dams to collect rain water for its usage in irrigation.
Smart Rain Water Harvesting System
  1. Usage of Precision / Laser Land Leveling to Conserve Water.
Laser Land Leveling to Conserve Water
  1. Bed and Furrow Planting
Bed and Furrow Planting
  1. Flexible gated pipe irrigation system
Flexible gated pipe irrigation system
  1. Optimizing Watercourse Conveyance Efficiency through Enhancing Lining Length

  1. Spat Irrigation
Spat Irrigation

This innovative water management technique is an art as well as science which is especially designed and unique to semi-arid environments.

Cite this Article in APA Style as:

[box type=”note” align=”aligncenter” ]Rahman, M. A. (2017, September 18). Innovative Water Resource Management in Agriculture [Blog Post]. Retrieved from[/box]