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Improving irrigation efficiency aims at minimizing water use within the agricultural sector while continuing to maintain optimal crop productivity rates. Water (and energy) efficient irrigation also provides a number of environmental and socio-economic benefits. High irrigation efficiency is becoming increasingly important due to the current decrease in available water resources and growing populations that drive expansion of agricultural activities.
Technological advances for improved irrigation include more efficient irrigation systems where water release can be controlled so that crops receive only the amount needed (e.g. pressurized irrigation systems such as drip irrigation). Other modern irrigation systems are self-propelled and include wireless sensors and GPS technology to improve site-specific and volumetric precision of water applications to match the needs of the soil and crops. Irrigation efficiency can also be improved through altering farming practices, such as crop rotation (plant crops according to seasons and soil conditions) and conservation tillage (leaving a previous year’s crop residue on the field to reduce soil erosion and runoff) that help improve soil moisture conservation.
Regularly monitoring equipment and repairing damages/leakages in irrigation systems are also important in improving water use efficiency for crops. Improving access to information in regards to these measures, for example through farmer education programs, can help create incentive and influence the behaviour of farmers toward greater water-efficient management of irrigation systems. In addition, operational and legislative changes, for example the implementation of new water-rights laws, or creating incentives for efficient use, may also be effective in promoting irrigation efficiency.