Impacts of concrete lining of irrigation canals on availability of water for domestic use in southern Sri Lanka
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Irrigation schemes have contributed to the availability of water not only for agriculture but also for domestic use by rural households. In the Uda Walawe irrigation scheme in southern Sri Lanka, irrigation canals are being lined with concrete to save water, meant to enable extension of the irrigated area. The effects of lining on the availability of water for multiple uses were investigated by field measurements of water levels and by an inventory of the perceptions of changed water availability by the population through focus group discussions. From the measurements it was determined that canal seepage provides an important contribution to groundwater recharge. It was estimated that after concrete lining the annual groundwater recharge in the irrigated areas will be reduced by approximately 50%. This saves a substantial amount of water that can be used to extend the irrigation area so more people can benefit from the available irrigation water. However, in the currently irrigated areas lining will have negative impacts by lowering groundwater levels due to a reduction in seepage from canals. This seepage contributes to the recharge of shallow wells used by the population to obtain water for drinking and cooking. The perception of the population was that enough water remains for domestic use. Other changes, such as reduced yields from home gardens were considered to be more important. Despite these negative impacts the expected positive impacts in the extension area justify, from a social equity point of view, concrete lining as a measure to redistribute the available water over the Uda Walawe area. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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