Knowing water better: Dept. of Irrigation partners FAO to improve water management and productivity

Monday, 22 March 2021 00:05 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


Sri Lanka boasts of a hydraulic history that spans over thousands of years, where all aspects of life have been intertwined with water. Today, although the services and industrial sectors are the main contributors to the nation’s economy, agriculture still remains the main source of livelihood for 26.5% of the total employed population. Agriculture contributes about 7.3% of the country’s GDP and to this date is fed predominantly by the systems of reservoirs, cascaded tanks and watersheds in Sri Lanka.

The water resources in the country are today threatened by climate change, and are strained by poor water management practices, rapid urbanisation and a growing population. Therefore, managing the scarce water resources efficiently and equitably has become a priority for the country. The Department of Irrigation with technical assistance from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is implementing a project titled ‘Knowing water better: towards fairer and more sustainable access to natural resources (KnoWat).’ 

The project funded by the Government of Germany is working to enhance water governance and management processes to address water scarcity and increased competition for water resources. Assessments through the project are being conducted surrounding the Malwathu Oya in the North Central Province. The Malwathu Oya basin has hundreds of small inter-connected rainwater storage tank cascade systems, and larger reservoirs. Some of the large irrigation tanks provide multiple services such as water for irrigation and livestock, water for municipalities, households, industries and aquaculture and fulfil the water requirement of the natural ecosystems and sanctuaries. Yet the Malwathu Oya is prone to water scarcity and floods.

To manage these water resources in Sri Lanka efficiently and equitably, it is necessary to know how much water is available, how it is used, and whether current patterns are sustainable. It is also necessary to know the rules which govern the access to water. Therefore, the first of a series of capacity development workshops on Water Accounting and Auditing was conducted by the Department of Irrigation through the KnoWat project for technical experts and key stakeholders in the water sector. Water Accounting and Auditing (WA&A) is a vital component of planning procedures for water resource management.

Water accounting is the systemic study of the current status and trends in water supply, demand, accessibility and use. Water auditing assesses the socio-economic, legal and political environment in which water is managed, including governance structures, legislation, institutions, as well as public and private expenditure on water infrastructure. Water tenure assessment focuses on the understanding of the legitimate rights to access and use water resources. These can be formal rights based on laws and regulations, as well as informal rights based on customs and traditions.

“The Ministry of Irrigation and the Irrigation Department jointly carried out a basin study for the Malwatu Oya basin to analyse the impact of flood and drought considering climate change scenarios, land-use changes and population changes ahead of the 2040 time horizon. The assessment showed that the impact of drought is considerably high,” said Eng. T.J. Meegastenna, the Additional Director General of Irrigation (Construction and Development), Department of Irrigation. Eng. Meegastenna stated that water accounting and auditing is a timely requirement to address future trends and to balance supply and demand of water.

“Water accounting and auditing, which are rarely done, should be the starting point of any effective strategy for addressing water shortages and scarcity,” said Dr. D.B.T Wijeratne, Assistant FAO Representative (Programme). “Through the KnoWat Project, FAO is supporting three member states, namely Sri Lanka, Senegal and Rwanda to improve water governance processes. This is done by building capacity in water accounting, and developing and testing a methodology for the assessment of water tenure. Transparent water accounting and auditing can provide the basis for more realistic, sustainable, effective and equitable water management,” Dr. Wijeratne stated further.

The three-day residential training workshop on Water Accounting and Auditing was conducted at the Irrigation Training Institute (ITI) in Galgamuwa, Kurunegala.

The training workshop saw the participation of experts from the Department of Irrigation, Mahaweli Authority, Department of Agrarian Development, Water and Drainage Board, Water Resources Board, Department of Agriculture, Department of Meteorology, National Aquaculture Development Authority (NAQDA), Land Use Policy Planning Department, Central Environment Authority, Biodiversity Secretariat and the Department of Census and Statistics.


Department of Irrigation in partnership with FAO conducts training on Water Accounting and Auditing at the Irrigation Training Institute, Galgamuwa under the German Government-funded KnoWat Project implemented in Sri Lanka, Senegal and Rwanda