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Open AccessArticle

Water Resources Management Strategies for Irrigated Agriculture in the Indus Basin of Pakistan

by Muhammad Muzammil 1,2,*, Azlan Zahid 3,4 and Lutz Breuer 1,5
Institute for Landscape Ecology and Resources Management (ILR), Research Centre for BioSystems, Land Use and Nutrition (IFZ), Justus Liebig University, 35392 Giessen, Germany
Department of Irrigation and Drainage, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad 38040, Pakistan
Department of Farm Machinery and Power, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad 38040, Pakistan
Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Penn State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA
Centre for International Development and Environmental Research (ZEU), Justus Liebig University, 35390 Giessen, Germany
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Water 2020, 12(5), 1429;
Received: 5 April 2020 / Revised: 6 May 2020 / Accepted: 15 May 2020 / Published: 17 May 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Water Footprint Assessment Research)
Agriculture of Pakistan relies on the Indus basin, which is facing severe water scarcity conditions. Poor irrigation practices and lack of policy reforms are major threats for water and food security of the country. In this research, alternative water-saving strategies are evaluated through a high spatio-temporal water footprint (WF) assessment (1997–2016) for the Punjab and Sindh provinces, which cover an irrigated area of 17 million hectares in the Indus basin of Pakistan. The SPARE:WATER model is used as a spatial decision support tool to calculate the WF and establish alternative management plans for more sustainable water use. The average water consumption (WFarea) is estimated to 182 km3 yr−1, composed of 75% blue water (irrigation water from surface water and groundwater sources), 17% green water (precipitation) and 8% grey water (water used to remove soil salinity or dilute saline irrigation water). Sugarcane, cotton, and rice are highly water-intensive crops, which consume 57% of the annual water use. However, WFarea can be reduced by up to 35% through optimized cropping patterns of the existing crops with the current irrigation settings and even by up to 50% through the combined implementation of optimal cropping patterns and improved irrigation technologies, i.e., sprinkler and drip irrigation. We recommend that the economic impact of these water-saving strategies should be investigated in future studies to inform stakeholders and policymakers to achieve a more sustainable water policy for Pakistan. View Full-Text
Keywords: Pakistan; Indus basin; water footprint; SPARE:WATER; water-saving strategies Pakistan; Indus basin; water footprint; SPARE:WATER; water-saving strategies
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Muzammil, M.; Zahid, A.; Breuer, L. Water Resources Management Strategies for Irrigated Agriculture in the Indus Basin of Pakistan. Water 2020, 12, 1429.

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