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Tigris and Euphrates Solutions

Page history last edited by nixonbl@dukes.jmu.edu 10 years ago







Goals Described:


Figure 6: The above flow chart displays the relationship of the solutions to solve the water crisis problem within the region. To achieve sustainability consumption needs to be reduced by: furrow irrigation, sprinkler irrigation, and lastly drip irrigation. To achieve the equitable distribution of water tri-country treaties must be formed, and incentives in place to insure treaties are upheld, thus leading to oil for water trade between Iraq and Turkey.



Proposed Solutions to Achieve the Goals


     Coming up with a solution for dealing with this water deficit proved difficult mainly because the region involved in this problem had neither the money or the know-how to deal with this situation.  Taking this underdevelopment into consideration the initial solution that was drawn up was relatively low in technical complexity and not too far off from what was already in place in these areas.  Instead of using the traditional flood irrigation techniques to water crops, it was suggested that the farmers that use this method move towards integrating the use of furrow irrigation techniques.  Based on calculations performed using data collected from Aquastat and assuming that close to a majority of farmers in this region currently use flood irrigation to irrigate their crops, if those farmers were to switch to using a furrow irrigation system for their crops, the water saved would successfully eliminate the deficit.


     In the long run it was proposed that the improvement of irrigation techniques continues, implementing drip and sprinkler irrigation systems where possible and repairing and updating the aging methods of irrigation water transportation from source to endpoint.




Retrieved from http://www.iraq-businessnews.com/pdf/Adapt%20from%20Flood%20Irrigation%20to%20Furrow%20Irrigation.pdf?d9c344


1. Updating Irrigation Practices

  •         Short term


     Flood irrigation is an irrigation technique that has been used for centuries.  It involves flooding shallow rows of planted crop allowing the water to infiltrate the soil.  However, much of this water is never used by the crop; about 60% of the water applied to the fields goes to waste due to the high levels of evaporation in the region ( Mahdi, 2011). Some other problems that arise by using flood irrigation are reduced crop yield as well as increased levels of soil salinity.  With current irrigation practices in place in Syria, Iraq, and Turkey, each country uses 87.9, 79, and 74 percent of their water for agricultural purposes, respectively (Aquastat).  


     All three countries are deeply engage in agriculture, even though this is an arid region and this is not always a viable option. A short-term goal would be to upgrade irrigation practices with a small group of farmers, then increase if applicable. A large part of effective water management is not wasting water through outdated irrigation practices. One of the biggest sources of water loss within these countries is evaporation, and our goal is to try and change that. In Syria, thirty to forty percent of irrigation water is lost during transportation due to evaporation. Most of the traditional irrigation practices involve flood irrigation. This process floods the entire field with water, increasing the evaporation rate, and increasing the salinity left behind on the soil due to the increase in the water evaporation. 


     A non-invasive recommendation for irrigation upgrades is that of furrow irrigation. This will allow rows to be channeled into the field with a plow or by hand, allowing the water to freely flow between the ridges, thus slowing the evaporation rate and lowing the salinity of the soil due to the increased water flow in the furrows versus the stagnant effect as is currently used. IF furrow irrigation uses 9% of the water versus flood irrigation, which let us say is 100% used, then 91% of water is saved per hectare. 23 divided by the .91 of the water saved= 25.3 billion cubic meters.

25.3 billion cubic meters divided by the deficit of 107 billion cubic meters = 23.6%. That means only twenty-six percent of the irrigated land would have to upgrade techniques to void the deficit. 


Retrieved from http://www.iraq-businessnews.com/pdf/Adapt%20from%20Flood%20Irrigation%20to%20Furrow%20Irrigation.pdf?d9c344


  • Updating Irrigation Practices: Long term 


     A long term proposed solution to this problem has been to turn open air canals into pipelines. However, there is an issue of funding within Syria. An idea could be to reallocate resources, or to search for international programs that might assist them in achieving this goal.  We also propose to introduce drip irrigation wherever the technology is available within the three countries, as another problem is the amount of water wasted by using furrow and earth distribution channels. Drip irrigation provides only the amount of water needed for a plant to grow and not much more, whereas furrow and earth distribution wastes a large amount of water, which is why we want to eliminate their use as much as possible. The drip and sprinkler irrigation systems will take longer because they are expensive and require time to install properly and could be the next change in the agricultural society within the river basin. Both the short-term and long-term goals should involve educational programs and incentives suitable for the farmers to understand, and adapt to the new irrigation practices.


     In order to encourage the farmers to change their irrigation practices incentives have been determined. First, a tax break for those farmers that switch to the updated irrigation in different tiered percentages based on which type of practices that has been implemented. Second, a reduced price on a furrow plow purchase to add ownership value. Third, would be seeds.



2. Treaties Between the Three Countries


     Both the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers begin in Turkey, which is where a majority of the water is introduced to the two systems. No matter the state each country is in there needs to be a tri-country treaty pertaining to the international waters at what would be an equitable and sustainable flow rate. Currently Turkey uses 54.62% of the water from the basin at this initial access point by using dams and hydroelectric plants. This contributes to water shortages within Syria and Iraq.  Our goal would be to negotiate with Turkey to establish equitable water allocation treaties that are acceptable to all  three countries. Both downstream countries believe they need more water. Measuring the water levels and water withdraws from year to year at different sites along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers will help them recognize the amount of available water in a given year, and allow them to decide what would be an attainable flow rate. With this knowledge the treaty that is established could also have to be a proportionate based one that allows for adjustment as needed, such as during droughts. An ideal international treaty dealing with water use for this situation would be one that used the gathered information to proportionately distribute water between the three countries. Treaties in the passed have dealt with only bi-country negotiations and have not proved to have any tangible results. This brings us to the next proposed solution, oil for water trade.



3. Oil for Water Trade  


     Oil for water trade could be possible after treaties are signed and Iraq's government had a greater control over the petroleum in their country. Iraq is in the process of re-building their oil industry, by subcontracting the drilling process to other oil companies from global locations (Kramer). Once Iraq is able to drill and capture their oil a trade with Turkey could be established as to an equivalent river flow rate to a barrel of oil trade. However, at this point of our expertise we cannot evaluate this trade due to the fact we do not live within this region. Oil has always been a controversial topic and this solution is given as a recommendation but must be left for those living within the basin to discuss and decide if this is a attainable solution. This trade has been pursued in the past by a United Nations Program called, "Food for Oil" in the 1990's. Iraq traded oil for humanitarian supplies and equipment (Food for Oil). Currently there is a crude oil pipeline between Iraq and Turkey for export purposes increasing a trade potential. A point to note however is that foe every barrel of oil produced 1.6 barrels of water is needed, thus increasing the demand for water resources. 





     There are many implications associated with this crisis, as with any complex problem. Stakeholder support is a key factor to the success of this solution proposal. In 2001, the Syrian government adopted modernized policies at field level to encourage the use of advanced on-farm irrigation technologies like drip and sprinkler irrigation to improve farm efficiencies and conserve water. 15% of Syrian farmers have already developed new technologies and from research we have found, Iraq looks to adapt to these new techniques as well. The overall challenge of these proposed solutions is that behavior change is required for success. This behavior change will also have to consider some unintended consequences that we can not predict for the future. If new technologies are accepted by these farmers and the first year produces a lower crop yield due to drought or any other constraint, farmers may convert back and others will be hesitant to try again. There are also many environmental issues to address that we will not know the outcome of. Salinity changes in the soil will change in the process of river flow increase and we do not know how that will affect current vegetation and crop productivity. Also, the revitalization of marshlands will have unpredicted outcomes after flow come back into the ecosystems.





     Adapting the appropriate stakeholders to this behavior change is clearly a challenge that will take years to accomplish. The implementation of these proposed solutions will all be incentive-based through the government and UN programs. Incentives such as tax breaks will encourage farmers to use modern irrigation technologies such as furrow, drip, and sprinkler systems. Over time, a higher tax will be placed on large scale farms that refuse to apply these new efficiencies to their farms. Regional meetings will be held through a program built by the UN for farms of interest in these uses or who have already adapted to these solutions. This will offer tax incentives for attending these meetings throughout the year. The UN will also rely on foreign aid through various NGOs to provide support and instruction on implementing new practices.





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