suggest that irrigation systems should not be changed unless the economic benefits have been considered and increased education and training have been provided along with advanced technology. Sound education and technical assistance programs can reduce the gap between research and actual improved irrigation practices.
Some authorities suggest that increased public financial assistance is required before any significant shift toward water conservation and environmental protection can occur. On the other hand, technical assistance, interest-free or low-interest loans, or direct cost sharing can only be provided where benefits to the public sector are documented.
Generally, new and improved irrigation systems that integrate automated irrigation water management systems and water measurement need to be developed. Such systems can simplify or reduce the number of management decisions to be made by the water managers and irrigators. The result is improved efficiency of water application, reduced energy use, and environmental protection.
The next 30 to 50 years could bring large-scale changes in agriculture. Even without environmental changes, agriculture will be faced with the seemingly impossible challenge of providing for twice as many people—each person with increasing demands—as exist now. With a relatively fixed land base and water supply and with diminishing reserves of petroleum and mineral resources, our options for increasing agricultural production are severely limited. Uncertainties in future water supplies, precipitation, and other climatic variables could be the straw that breaks the agricultural camel's back.
No single technology can solve all of the water quantity and quality problems confronting agriculture. However, water conservation technologies, when properly selected and implemented, can improve water use and management of crop land, range land, and forest land. Improvements in water management are required at all levels of water use. These management improvements will require bold changes in institutions and organizations, water policy and law, farming systems, education and training programs, and research and development. We must all recognize the critical role of water resources in human life. Improvements in agricultural water management are required both to cope with environmental change and to ensure environmental protection.