International Symposium on
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Water Saving Irrigation Technology Development in China


Deputy Director, Renewable Energy & Environment Institute
Chinese Academy of Agricultural Mechanization Sciences, Beijing China


The United Nations has pointed out that, in addition to the water recourse crisis and rapid expansion of desert land, two-third of arable land in Africa, one-third in Asia, one-fifth in South America will soon disappear. Consequently, about 135 million people may have to abandon their native place.

Agricultural ecosystem development depends on water. Drought in these ecosystems is responsible for most of the natural disasters and a major loss to agriculture and society equal to loss by all the other natural disasters. Only because of water availability, one can see few oases in the middle of a desert.
China ranks as 109th among other countries on the average water resource level possession, which is one forth of the average amounts of the world and is regarded as the 13th country for water deficiency.  The population of China is expected to increase to 1.6 billion by 2030, and this in combination with the very fast expansion of cities and industrialization in China, may lead to water deficiencies and severe ecological crisis. Therefore, Chinese government is putting great efforts to water conservancy.

According the analysis there is a shortage of 30~40 billions m3 of water in China in recent years.  With a population expected to be about 1.6 billion by 2030, and average water resource consumption of 1750 m3 / person, China may experience severe water shortages and even face a water crisis if no efforts are being made to conserve water.

There are two ways to address this problem, one is to exploit more water resources, and the other one is by adopting water-saving technologies. Agriculture uses about 70% of water the recourses in China, thus concentrating our efforts in promoting water saving irrigation technologies may be one of the best ways to address the problem. Northwest China, which belongs to the arid and semi-arid region, uses over 80 percent of its water resources for irrigation. During 1949-2001 period, agricultural area under irrigation increased from 0.016 billion to 0.06 billion hm2, or by 2.75 times. As a result, the Chinese government is devoting great attention to developing agriculture water irrigation saving practices in these areas.

Chinese have learned and developed many types of water saving irrigation technologies: like (i) canal protecting, sprinkle and drip irrigation, etc.  Today, there are over 1000 manufactories in China that can supply water saving irrigation equipments to the farmer.

Drip irrigation applied under the mulch layer is one of the successful technologies developed by Chinese and was used last year in open fields on about 380,000 ha.  Due to the efforts of Chinese manufactures and engineers the cost of the Chinese drip irrigation system is about 1/5 of the European system. The technology has been applied successfully to plants such as cotton, watermelon, pepper, onion, tobacco, sugar cane etc. and cash crops. This paper will present the development and application of this technology.