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Water harvesting

Water harvesting

Low and erratic rainfall is one of the major challenges facing agricultural production systems in the Middle East – one that is expected to be exacerbated by the effects of climate change. Conserving the already limited supplies of water resources, using these resources more productively, and delivering larger and more stable water supplies to crops and livestock is critically important.

In rainfed areas, where irrigation is not practical, the Water and Livelihoods Initiative (WLI) is working with local communities to pilot-test and disseminate proven water harvesting techniques and structures that offer an opportunity to improve water-use efficiency and increase yield.

Key challenges:

  • Low and erratic rainfall and extreme water scarcity – representing significant constraints on crop production.

  • Susceptibility to drought and desertification.

Water harvesting innovations:

Constructing and maintaining water harvesting structures: collecting rainwater and run-off, conserving this vital resource in soils or channeling it where it is smost needed.

Close monitoring: rainfall patterns, run-off, and soil profiles are closely monitored – helping to optimize the placement of structures and ensure their effective maintenance and repair following heavy storms and flash floods.

Selected research activities and results:

  • At one site in Palestine – Thaherya - 67 hectares of rock terraces, check dams, and contour lines have been constructed, collecting an additional 81 m3of water and benefiting wheat and olive production. Overall in Palestine, the introduction of improved field crops and water harvesting techniques generated economic benefits of over 400,000 USD.

  • Structures in Jordan are benefiting from the application of soil moisture monitoring equipment made available through a collaborative project supported by US Forestry Services.

  • Some 33 check dams have been constructed at the Majdyya research site in Jordan’s badia region – and some are now being repaired and strengthened with cement.

  • Some 10 hectares of contour ridges have been planted with the drought-tolerant fodder plant, atriplex. Barley, planted alongside water harvesting structures, generated up to 700 kg per dunum in Jordan.

  • In Lebanon – micro-catchments such as Najarim and semi-circular bunds were explored and promoted as on-farm micro-level rainwater harvesting interventions.