Traditional water distribution and irrigation systems have been used in the Middle East in agriculture for thousands of years. The main objectives of the study are to investigate positive and negative environmental and social impacts of such traditional methods in three countries of the Mediterranean (Sudan, Yemen, and Palestine). To achieve these objectives, field visits, observations, interviews, and questionnaires were used. The results showed the presence of five main traditional water distribution systems in the three areas. Differences in the existing systems were attributed to farmers' education level, experience, and degree of water scarcity in the area (50% of the educated farmers, more experienced farmers and water scarcity areas are adopting modern irrigation techniques, especially in Palestine). Preserving existing natural habitat and strengthening of social ties and relations between farmers were among the positive environmental impacts of such old methods. Water losses through high evaporation (about 40% water loss), seepage and water pollution were among the negative impacts. Proper planning and control, especially by public institutions, and programs for environmental awareness are some necessary actions to minimize the negative impacts in such traditional water societies. Such suggested measures are specifically important to be adopted whenever modern methods of water distribution (pipelines) and irrigation (drip irrigation) are intended to be applied.

INTRODUCTION

Potable water is an essential element for life. It is also an important requirement for developing society, both in social as well as economic aspects. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are four million children dying annually in developing countries as a result of waterborne diseases, such as malaria and amoeba (Rubenstein 2008).

It is well known that a lack of water resources is more likely to occur in countries with fast population growth and high density, such as in Mexico, the Middle East and East Asia. For example, China has more than 22% of the total world population with only 7% of the total potable water worldwide (Simon 2001). Population has an important effect on water consumption: it is estimated that as the population is doubled, water consumption increases three-fold (Simon 2001). In addition, the increase in water usage will affect agriculture negatively and decrease food availability. This is more obvious in developing countries, where 90% of the water is being used for irrigation with a high loss ratio (water loss/total water added) and high evaporation (Abu Zeid 1998).

The water crisis in the Middle East is more visible; this is mainly because more than 90% of the area exists under arid and semi-arid conditions, with a mean annual rainfall of less than 250 mm (Hasan 1999), limited water resources, high population growth and the intensive use of water resources, which exceeds the water demand of these countries in most of the cases. This stress might grow further in the Middle Eastern countries where they suffer from poverty, limited social capacities, and a vast use of old traditional water distribution and irrigation systems (Allan 2002; Sullivan & Huntingford 2009). The Middle East witnesses a diversity in its climate due to the diversity in topographical features. The diversification in climate affects the existing water resources and water losses under different climatic conditions, where temperature fluctuates greatly between summer and wintertime, and rainfall is limited to 40–50 days in wintertime (International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) 2009). The ongoing industrial and irrigated agricultural development is putting further pressure and threats on these countries’ water resources, hence putting more demand on studying the environmental consequences of existing old traditional irrigation systems to cope with water losses and pollution (World Bank 2009).

The traditional water distribution and irrigation system known as ‘kahareez’ was first known in Iran a thousand years ago, and is still in use nowadays; it is an open system. In the northern part of Africa, this traditional system is known by a different name (Khattara). All of the above mentioned traditional water distribution and irrigation systems spreading in the Middle East and North Africa are still in use these days (Beaumont & Bonine 1989). Such a system was transported to Oman, in the Gulf area, from the Persian region, where it is called in Oman ‘Aflaj’ (Al-Marshudi 2007). This Aflaj system depends on two main types of water division methods between farmers. The first is the celestial method, which depends on shadow during the daytime and on the planets' location and movements during the night. The second method, which is located in central Oman, is called the mechanical method, and depends on using mechanical equipment such as a small bucket known in the local language as ‘Tasa and Qados’ (Wilkinson 1977). Similar distribution and irrigation systems were described by Varisco (1983) in Yemen. This traditional water distribution system is linked with a complicated social system that exists in the High Atlas Barber in Algeria, where it is the responsibility of elderly people who acquire moral power to divide water among farmers, aiming at higher efficiency, fair and lower losses of distribution (Mahdi 1985). Traditional water distribution and irrigation systems have been documented in many parts of the world, with a detailed description of applied methods as well as associated control measures for equitable and efficient water partitions between different farmers (Dani & Siddiqi 1989; Coward 1990).

The study of traditional water distribution and irrigation systems can be considered as a small window towards future opportunity for a full understanding of the socioeconomic and environmental problems encountered (Lightfoot 1996), where disputes between farmers as well as pollution from fuel spills out of engines into water sources can occur. Such systems of irrigation and distribution have both positive and negative consequences on the environment as well as on the social settings of the area. The main objectives of this study are: (i) to reveal these traditional irrigation systems along with their practices, environmental and social consequences; and (ii) to propose mitigation measures for such environmental and social impacts.

METHODOLOGY

The study areas

The study was conducted in three main areas of the Middle East region during the summer and autumn of 2011 and 2012. The areas are Kasala in East Sudan, Al Ahjur in northern Yemen and central Palestine (Figure 1). The reasons for choosing these three areas are the presence of traditional water distribution and irrigation systems, and the accessibility of the area.
Figure 1

Location map of the three study areas.

Figure 1

Location map of the three study areas.

Kasala in East Sudan is located near the Qash River and the majority of the economic activity is devoted to agriculture. Kasala city is located on a huge groundwater aquifer, adjacent to the foot slope of the Red Sea Mountains to the east, and the Ethiopian highlands slopes to the south. The area has an elevation of 490–510 m above sea level, with almost flat undulating topography. The climate is arid desert. The soil of Kasala is the fertile alluvial flood plain of the Qash River (Ash shami 2000). As a result, people immigrated to the area due to the availability of water and the fertile soil, forming a kind of green oasis that is locally called ‘Sawaqi’, where the prevailing traditional water irrigation and distribution systems were investigated.

Al Ahjur city in Yemen is located in the north of Yemen. The area has deep tectonics and faults of the tertiary epoch, with a tough and steep topography. Due to the abundance of geologic faults, the area is rich in spring water resources. The climate varies according to the elevation, ranging from hot in the south to warm in the north, with a total annual rainfall of 470 mm (Al Mashriqi 2000). The soil of the area is sandy, mixed with stones, and has a high drainage capacity (Ministry of Land and Mineral Resources 1995).

Central Palestine is mainly located in what is now called the ‘West Bank’. The area has a semi-arid (West) to arid climate (East), with an annual rainfall of 160–600 mm. The soil of the area is vertisols and entisols in the west, whereas in the east it is aridisols (Land Research Center 1999). The area is dominated by more than 290 springs, which are mainly used for irrigation purposes, especially traditional irrigation for vegetable plantations (Isac & Sabbah 1997). The study was conducted in three locations of central Palestine: these are namely Jericho, Dura al Qari’ and Battir villages.

The questionnaire and interview

The questionnaire was designed to provide data on existing traditional water irrigation and distribution systems in the three areas. The questionnaire was tested by asking the local farmers, and was adjusted afterwards. After testing and readjustment, the farmers, with the help of the enumerator, filled out a total of 90 questionnaires divided equally between the three study areas. Randomization of the 30 questionnaires in each study area was achieved by giving numbers to each house in the village, followed by a random selection of 30 numbers from the pre-assigned house numbers. The questionnaire was composed of 15 open ended questions and was structured into three main subjects: (i) general information on land use that prevails in the area (six questions); (ii) production input and its relation to different elements of the environment (five questions), and (iii) problems that are related to the environment as a result of adopting the traditional water irrigation and distribution systems (four questions).

Most of the factors that were tackled in the questionnaire represented a descriptive type of data, and the answers were assigned dummy codes for further analysis. The coding answers to the questions were analyzed using SPSS 12.0. procedures (SPSS Inc. 2003). Descriptive statistical analysis was used to analyze the questionnaire's data. The analysis method included cross tab analysis and frequencies to examine relationships between different aspects of the traditional irrigation and distribution on one hand, and with existing environmental elements on the other.

In addition, frequent field visits to the three areas were conducted in 2011. During these visits, observations, field data collections (such as type of crops, irrigation times and frequencies, etc.), and photography of important features related to traditional water distribution and irrigation systems were carried out. These data were then sorted out, managed, arranged and analyzed systematically to obtain the main positive and negative characteristics of traditional water distribution and irrigation systems. As for the interviews, a total of nine interviews with open questions were carried out in the three areas, three interviews in each area. The interviews were made with the person who is responsible for water distribution, with an owned-land farmer, and with a rented-land farmer. The questions of the interview focused on the methods of water distribution, social relations as a result of adopting such methods, social and environmental problems as a result of the disputes between farmers on water distribution and rights, and the role of the local authorities in applying suitable laws and bylaws to conserve water and the environment.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

Traditional irrigation water and water distribution systems

Water distribution and irrigation systems depend mainly on the source of water. There are two sources of water in the three study areas; groundwater wells and springs.

Table 1 shows the main characteristics of the water distribution and irrigation systems in the three study areas. Where the groundwater wells are the primary source of water, water distribution systems between the farmers depend mainly on a fixed time of distribution for a certain area of land (i.e. 1 day of water distribution is being devoted to four acres). An exception is in the irrigation systems (drip and sprinkler) located in Palestine, which can be found in certain types of crops (e.g. banana and citrus) in which basin irrigation is adopted.

Table 1

Main water distribution and irrigation systems that are prevailing in the three areas

Country Number of farmers with water distribution right Depth to groundwater (m) Type of water transport (from source to field) Applied field irrigation systems 
Yemen 30–40 Deep (>300) Open earth canal Open basins and furrows 
Sudan 5–8 Moderate (100) Open earth canal Open basins and furrows 
Palestine 5–8 Moderate (100) Pressurized plastic pipes Drip and sprinkler 
Country Number of farmers with water distribution right Depth to groundwater (m) Type of water transport (from source to field) Applied field irrigation systems 
Yemen 30–40 Deep (>300) Open earth canal Open basins and furrows 
Sudan 5–8 Moderate (100) Open earth canal Open basins and furrows 
Palestine 5–8 Moderate (100) Pressurized plastic pipes Drip and sprinkler 

The main differences can be observed between Yemen and Sudan, from one side, and Palestine, from the other (Table 1), and the difference occurred in both the distribution and irrigation systems, which can be attributed to the following factors:
  1. In Yemen and Sudan, most of the farmers are illiterate, hence they are dealing with water in a random, unplanned and non-systematic way whereas in Palestine, the farmers are mostly well educated, more experienced, therefore they are dealing with water in a more planned and systematic way (Figure 2).

  2. Water is considered a very precious element of the environment due to its scarcity in Palestine (annual available water is 180 million m3) (Sabbah 2004), whereas in both Yemen and Sudan, water is more available (annual available water is 2.5 and 64 billion m3, respectively) (Ministry of Land and Mineral Resources 1995; Mohammad 2003).

  3. There is a political conflict in Palestine that is being reflected in the water rights between the Israelis and the Palestinians, whereas this factor is absent in Yemen and Sudan. Politics can be a major driving factor to water rights in any regions that have political disputes or are unstable (Simon 2001; Allan 2002).

Figure 2

Relation between farmers' education and their adoption of new techniques.

Figure 2

Relation between farmers' education and their adoption of new techniques.

Springs are the second source of water (called Ghoyool in Yemen). In this source, water is being collected into ponds next to the springs. Some of these ponds are old, others are new, and some are privately owned and others are publicly owned (Hovden 2007). After water is collected in the ponds, it seeps into open earth canals, especially in Yemen, whereas in Palestine the canals are currently being converted to cement-lined canals. Recently, some of these canals have been converted to plastic pipes, such as those in Wadi Fukin, Wadi al Far'a, and Dura al Qari’ (Figure 3). The water, which flows into either open canals or plastic pipes, is then divided into portions according to old traditional rights that have been used for hundreds of years (Tomazi & Naslund 2006). These traditions of water rights have been passed through generations orally, which are based on the Islamic water inheritance roles, and they are widely respected and accepted by the farmers (As Safadi 1985).
Figure 3

Location of the three study areas in Palestine.

Figure 3

Location of the three study areas in Palestine.

Five old traditional ways of water division and water rights are being used in the three study areas, as follows:

  1. Division according to the judgment of the water manager (the manager is called ‘Taifee’ in Yemen or ‘Qanawati’ in Palestine). In this method of water division, the time devoted to each farmer depends mainly on the area of the land and the type of crop (Tomazi & Naslund 2006).

  2. Distribution according to the shadow of the sun during day time. In this method of water division, the shadow of an object (i.e. tree, large rock, etc.) under the sun is measured in feet and is then subdivided and devoted to different farmers according to well-known and fixed earth points (i.e. a certain rock point, tree, or any other fixed terrestrial mark).

  3. Distribution according to a stick. In this method, a stick or rod is used by the farmers. The first farmer who irrigates has the responsibility of measuring the water depth in the pond using a stick, and this measurement is taken from a certain and fixed point (i.e. such as a corner or a stone in the middle of the pond). The farmer puts a mark on the stick showing the depth of water, and then starts to irrigate his field with a certain depth of water (i.e. two or three fingers of water depth that have been inherited to the farmer). When the first farmer has received his portion of water, the second farmer starts to irrigate by a certain depth of water which is agreed upon (As Safadi 1985). In this method, the control of the water distribution is reliant on the farmers themselves.

  4. The distribution of water according to a pierced metal cup is called ‘Tasa’. In this method, each farmer has a period of time equal to the time needed to empty the water from a certain number of pierced cups. The control of water division in this method is the responsibility of the farmers, especially those who have the water distribution turn.

  5. Distribution according to the number of days in the year is known as ‘Fasel’ or ‘Fased’. This method depends on dividing the number of days during the irrigation season by the number of families that have water rights (Tomazi & Naslund 2006).

Environmental impacts of old water distribution systems

Positive environmental impacts

The adoption of traditional water distribution and irrigation systems, which have been preserved by the farmers in the study areas, are ruled by very old traditions that aimed at maximizing the benefits, especially those related to the environment. Based on analysis of the farmers' interviews and field observations, the positive environmental impacts of traditional water distribution and irrigation systems can be stated as follows:

  1. Prevention of seepage and deep percolation of water from the pond and canals throughout continuous maintenance. Such a maintenance process is a very important activity that is shared by almost all the farmers (in Sudan the local expression is Nafeer, which means a collective rush to do some good work). This activity is considered as an important way of strengthening social relations between the farmers, as stated by the interviewees. Continuous maintenance is also carried out to prevent damage that may occur to cultivated crops as a result of occasional flooding.

  2. Strengthening of the principle of social justice and social support. Social justice is enhanced through the adoption of the equity principle in water distribution between farmers, which is based on the size of the land, the farmers' inherited rights, the type of crop and its water needs, as well as the closeness to or distance from the land to the water source. The social support principle is achieved through what is called in Palestine ‘Qurtha’ and in Yemen ‘Sulfa’, which means the borrowing of water from other farmers whenever the farmer's water right is insufficient to cope for the crop water requirements.

  3. During drought years or water shortages from springs, farmers tend to either reduce the total irrigated area or they cultivate crops with less water requirements.

  4. Traditional water distribution decreases water loss in irrigation by reducing the number of irrigations and irrigation period. For example, Qat trees in Yemen and citrus in Palestine and Sudan are less frequently irrigated compared to vegetables that have low resistance to drought.

  5. Achieve the principle of water conservation. This is done by maximizing the benefits from water through the use of the same quantity of water in different uses. For example, spring water in Palestine and Yemen is used for recreation purposes and water mills before using it for irrigation. In addition, water seeping out of the earth canal ridges is utilized by planting suitable trees and crops adjacent to the canal ridges.

  6. The partial transformation of earth open canals to cement canals or closed pipelines has resulted in an increase in the water available for irrigation, through the reduction of seepage and evaporation.

  7. Traditional water irrigation systems control the spread of infection caused by pests and insects. This control is achieved by dividing the land into smaller and separated parcels, where each tree is separated from the adjacent one by a basin with levees.

  8. The adoption of traditional water distribution and irrigation systems preserve the cultural and traditional landscape of the study areas, resulting in the preservation of the existing biodiversity, hence comprising a potential for traditional eco-tourism in the three areas.

Negative environmental impacts

Negative impacts of traditional water distribution and irrigation systems on the environment as well as on agricultural land can be observed. Such impacts are attributed to not respecting old traditional water rights, the scarcity of water resources, and the ongoing transformation of irrigation systems and water uses. Content analysis of the interviews and field observations revealed the following negative environmental impacts:
  1. The excavation of groundwater wells in unplanned, sporadic, and random methods. This resulted in lowering the groundwater level and the consequent drought of some of these wells. Interviews revealed the following reasons for such random excavation:

    • (a) In Kasala in East Sudan, weak application and monitoring of existing laws of digging, and the lack of a clear mandate and monitoring from public and private institutions for controlling digging. Such unplanned and random digging of water wells causes the amount of groundwater abstraction to exceed aquifer storage capacity.

    • (b) In Palestine, the lack of control on water resources, the sanctions and control practices of the Israelis over water resources, the control by the Israelis of the Palestinian ability for free excavation, and abstraction of water by some powerful Palestinian families have all led to more pressure on the available water resources, hence resulting in negative environmental impacts.

    • (c) In Yemen, the weakness of the responsible authorities was the main reason for such environmental impacts. Such weakness can be observed in the excavation of many unplanned wells, especially for irrigation of the profitable Qat trees, which is the main reason for water deficit and loss.

  2. Due to the intensive irrigated agricultural activities that are taking place in the three study areas, large amounts of chemicals (fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides) are being applied to cultivated lands, aimed at maximizing the profits and decreasing the efforts that are needed to cultivate the lands. For example, in Yemen, about 9–16 insecticide applications annually are common (Abdullah 2002). The chemical application practice is accompanied by a lack of sufficient environmental awareness, which is manifested in improper and unsafe methods of spraying by farmers (Figure 4), as well as the random discarding of chemical bottles, resulting in the pollution of water and soil, and harmful effects on human health.

Figure 4

Improper and unsafe application of insecticides in Qat field in Yemen.

Figure 4

Improper and unsafe application of insecticides in Qat field in Yemen.

Interviews and field observations revealed the most important chemicals that are being used in the three areas, along with their effects:

  • (a) Topaz: which is being used as an insecticide. It causes moderate eye and skin irritation.

  • (b) Sevin: This insecticide interferes with the synaptic nerves and causes the loss of voluntary muscle control.

  • (c) Lanate: This pesticide results in severe eye irritation, skin itching, burning, redness, swelling or rash, nausea, headache, weakness, cramps, excessive sweating, salivation and other symptoms.

  • (d) Dimethoate: Dimethoate is moderately toxic by ingestion and inhalation.

Pollution of water by chemicals, especially in Yemen where Qat is widely used, has caused dangerous and non-recoverable diseases. For example, lip and throat cancer, teeth deterioration, and skin problems are common diseases (Ministry of Health and Population 2010).
  1. Spring water is used for laundry in the three study areas, especially on canals that are connecting springs with the agricultural lands. It is well known that laundry uses chemical detergents, hence causing chemical pollution and loss of vegetation, with a decrease in the amount of potable water.

  2. The use of open canals for water transport, especially in Yemen and Sudan, causes external pollution of water by animal manure, sprayed chemicals, dust and soil. As a result, this pollution reduces the amount of potable water. Open canals are also well known to enhance the spread of mosquitoes and flies, which might cause hygienic problems such as malaria and dysentery. Analysis of the questionnaire (Figure 5) shows that more than 50 and 90% of the conveyance system is open canals in Yemen and Sudan, respectively. At the same time, the losses are exacerbated by using traditional irrigation systems (i.e. basins and furrows). Figure 5 reveals that 80, 90 and 50% of the farmers are currently using such traditional irrigation systems in Yemen, Sudan, and Palestine, respectively.

  3. The use of water in an unsustainable and inefficient way, such as basins and open canals for irrigation (Figure 6) in high water-demand crops (e.g. citrus, banana, and Qat) (Figure 7), which increases the potential for pests' transfer from infected to healthy crops, increases the water loss through evaporation and deep seepage, and causes an accumulation of salt in the soil. Traditional methods of irrigation increase the working time, and the money needed for land preparation (i.e. ploughing, planting etc.) It is estimated that 40% of the water applied for irrigation using the traditional methods is lost through evaporation and seepage (As Shareef 2004).

  4. Groundwater wells in Kasala and in some parts of Yemen, especially in Lahaj area, are subjected to pollution due to flooding of the Qash river, plastic solid waste, animal manure, chemicals, fuels and mineral oils seeping from generators located nearby or inside the wells (Figure 8). Groundwater wells' pollution as a result of the aforementioned reasons is lower in Palestine, where pressurized and closed pipelines are being used, hence reducing the possibility of the wells' pollution.

  5. Break factories, especially in Kasala area in Sudan, are causing pollution from the burning of deforested wood. In addition, factories are spread randomly on fertile agricultural lands, resulting in a remarkable decrease of the available land for agriculture. In the last three decades, the Ministry of Industry has allocated distant areas for such industrial activity, with a set of regulations and penalties against those who pollute the environment (Adam 2000). The problem of violation against agricultural land is exacerbated by the random built up expansion on such lands, leading to a reduction of the available land for agriculture as well as initiating a continuous source of pollution from anthropogenic activities.

  6. Active deforestation process for coal and/or for expansion of agricultural land. This deforestation leads to environmental consequences such as soil erosion, carbon dioxide emission, and air pollution as a result of burning the wood for coal production.

  7. The rapid population growth, which is estimated at 4% annually, has led to more pressure on water resources, which is obvious in Palestine and Sudan. The more pressure on water resources, the greater the tendency of the inhabitants to explore and dig more wells in order to cope with the increasing demand for water. Such pressure has led to overexploitation of groundwater aquifers and salinization due to the concentration of more salt in a lesser amount of water into the aquifer. The shift from traditional water irrigation methods to more preservative and high efficiency irrigation systems (e.g. drip and sprinkler) could reduce overexploitation of water resources. In addition, more awareness focusing on the value of water and rationalizing domestic water use might be also useful.

  8. As stated by the farmers, the conversion of traditional open water conveyance canals to closed ones (closed pipeline), especially in Palestine, has resulted in severe negative consequences on the biodiversity in Jericho Oasis. Many water-demanding natural plants as well as migrating birds have been affected by the lack of water, especially in areas where water is being restricted by closed pipelines, hence reducing the number, types, as well as the distribution of fauna and flora in the area (Abdulhaq 2007).

Figure 5

The use of closed water conveyance pipelines and traditional irrigation systems in the three areas.

Figure 5

The use of closed water conveyance pipelines and traditional irrigation systems in the three areas.

Figure 6

Open water distribution canals in Sudan (left) and closed cement canal in Palestine (right).

Figure 6

Open water distribution canals in Sudan (left) and closed cement canal in Palestine (right).

Figure 7

Prevailing water-demand cropping patterns in the three areas.

Figure 7

Prevailing water-demand cropping patterns in the three areas.

Figure 8

Groundwater well's pollution by fuel seeping into the well from the adjacent engine.

Figure 8

Groundwater well's pollution by fuel seeping into the well from the adjacent engine.

CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Field observations, interviews, and questionnaires revealed positive and negative environmental and socioeconomic impacts of the traditional water distribution and irrigation systems. Based on these impacts, the following conclusions and recommendations can be mentioned:

  1. The main water distribution systems in both Yemen and Sudan depend mainly on open earth canals and in-field traditional irrigation systems (furrows and basins). On the contrary, Palestine is mostly dependent on closed and pressurized pipelines and high tech and conservative irrigation systems (drip irrigation).

  2. The differences in methods of water distribution and irrigation systems between Yemen and Sudan on the one hand, and Palestine on the other, was found to be attributed mainly to the farmers' education level, their experience, and also due to the scarcity of water, especially in Palestine.

  3. Five main traditional ways of water division between the farmers in the three areas are prevailing. Such traditional ways depend basically on the Islamic water inheritance right, and are being controlled by an honest person who is called the water manager.

  4. Activities carried out during the practice of traditional water distribution methods (i.e. Nafeer), especially in Sudan and Yemen, are being considered as an important way of strengthening social relations, social justice, and social support between farmers.

  5. Traditional water distribution systems were found to be an efficient and conservative method, where water loss is controlled by the reduction of evaporation and seepage through the reduction of irrigation cycles (e.g. in trees with high drought resistance), as well as the adoption of the principle of water multi-uses (i.e. the same amount of water is being used for recreation, water mills, and irrigation at the same time).

  6. Lack of proper planning, the unclear mandate of public and private institutions, powerful families with a high ability to impose their will, and the weakness of the responsible authorities have all resulted in random excavation and high water abstraction. As a consequence, adoption of traditional water distribution and irrigation systems has been negatively affected.

  7. The use of traditional irrigation systems (i.e. basins and furrows) increases the risk of diseases, pests spreading to healthy crops, and negative environmental impacts, in addition to building up soil salinity, which is mainly caused by high evaporation rates (40% of the applied water is lost by evaporation). Negative environmental impacts (e.g. pollution of soil and water resources by chemicals, laundry, soil and dust) are important consequences of the traditional open water distribution and irrigation systems. To reduce such pollution, especially in Sudan and Yemen, it is suggested to adopt the following:

    • (a) Construct a cement break around the wells to prevent pollution from outside sources.

    • (b) Install a metal mesh on the opening of the well so that any dead animals will be screened out of the well.

    • (c) Apply strict regulations, precautions, and a monitoring system to minimize environmentally harmful activities (such as installing the engines on the top of the well).

  8. The shift from traditional water distribution and irrigation systems to modern methods, for water conservation purposes, should be accompanied by comprehensive programs for environmental awareness. In such programs, special attention should be paid to the existing fauna and flora of the area. Fauna and flora components of the natural habitat are well known for their dependency on the water that is available through the traditional water distribution and irrigation systems, which is absent whenever pressurized and high tech irrigation methods are being adopted.

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