| Design and operation of smallholder irrigation in South Asia |
|Chapter 7 - Canal systems for smallholder irrigation|
Equity in allocation of water may or may not be a consideration in the design of smallholder irrigation. In some schemes, allocation in proportion to the area of holding is strictly followed, or at least it is aimed at. In others, each cultivator makes an application for water to irrigate a nominated area of a particular crop. Each application is viewed along with all other applications, and with such modifications as circumstances may indicate it is finally "sanctioned". The irrigation agency then endeavors to make the necessary water available to meet that sanction by incorporating the cultivator's holding in an appropriate rotational schedule. This is the "rigid shejpali" system practiced in central India. In sanctioning, restrictions on the proportion of certain crops, such as sugar-cane, are placed more for reasons of watertable control than for reasons of equity in water distribution.
Where water is allocated in proportion to area of holding it is in fact an entitlement, rather than an amount of water, which is allocated. In the original N.W. Indian system the cultivator was obliged to take his share of water when his turn came (the "warabandi" system). This presented no problem to the cultivator in that area, as the amount allocated was always less than he could use, i.e. water was always needed. The present concept is a broader one. Among the group of cultivators served by a tertiary (watercourse) each has a basic entitlement but he is not obliged to use it and he can transfer its use to other members of the group by informal adjustment of the rotational schedule.
Where water is distributed on the basis of uniform entitlement per unit of area of holding, water charges are based on a per-hectare per season basis. Where distribution is on the basis of sanctioned areas of particular crops water charges are usually based on area and type of crop. The latter charges taken into account the relative amount of water which the type of crop uses, and the economic returns from it.
Charging on the basis of actual volume of water used, usually regarded as the ideal system, is not generally practiced at the level of the individual cultivator or of the tertiary command in the South Asian region. This is due to the practical difficulty of maintaining recording equipment at that level. However, it is being employed in some cases where water is supplied to a cooperative, particularly for sugar-cane production. In tubewell systems, direct or indirect volumetric charging for water is commonly practiced.