Groundwater Irrigation Management and the Existing Challenges from the Farmers’ Perspective in Central Iran

Forough Jafary, Christopher Bradley

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The sustainable management of natural resources, and particularly groundwater, presents a major challenge in arid regions to ensure security of water supply and support agricultural production. In many cases the role of smallholder farmers is often neglected when managing irrigated water and land processes. However, management decisions have a major impact on farmers’ livelihoods and it is essential: first, to recognise the crucial role of regional and local social, political and economic systems; and second, to integrate farmers’ perspectives in the governance and management of local groundwater practices. This is particularly important as the ways in which arid region farmers use land and water have wider implications for land degradation and salinization. This paper uses a community-based approach to identify and examine the social, economic and cultural dimensions to groundwater irrigation systems from the perspective of local farmers in central Iran. The paper utilises interviews with local farmers and water agencies in Iran to reflect on their respective roles within the irrigation system and in developing management plans for the sustainable use of groundwater. Through social research we investigate the reasons why farmers might reject government irrigation management schemes, and outline how local problems with land degradation and salinization and reduced water availability have arisen as a result of changing management policies. In conclusion we identify future challenges and consider appropriate future management strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Article number15
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jan 2018


  • drip irrigation
  • groundwater
  • common-pool resource
  • water rights
  • local farming


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