Improving Water Use Efficiency

1. Improving Irrigation Technique

The agricultural sector is the main user of water, but water use efficiency is only 45% for the entire irrigation system. The losses are mainly due to seepage in the irrigation system as well as the use of flood irrigation in many places, especially in southern China, where farmers used to follow traditional technology in applying water to the rice field. Water-saving techniques have been promoted in grain-producing areas, particularly in arid regions. In 1997, China implemented a water-saving program on 15.3 million ha of irrigated land using different techniques, such as "anti-seepage" measures for canals (8.7 million ha), water conveyance with pipes (5.2 million ha), and sprinkler irrigation (1.2 million ha).

2. Promoting a Water Tariff System

A water tariff system for irrigation was initiated and has been promoted since the 1980s. It has played an important role in addressing the challenge of water shortage in China. The problem is that the fee is too low for most areas, which means less incentive to the farmers to use water efficiently. The water tariff is being adjusted so that it will at least meet the operation requirements and maintenance costs of irrigation systems. In 1996, the central government decided to select 300 counties from more than 2000 as pilot counties to implement the water-saving program.

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