Irrigation works aim to increase the efficiency of water use and economic benefits for farmers. This study adopts a broader view and investigates their potential to contribute to the achievement of other sustainability objectives. In particular, the paper employs a multi-objective programming (MOP) model, which examines the possibilities to simultaneously achieve four conflicting objectives with the upgrade of an irrigation network in a rural area in Greece. The four objectives are maximization of economic result (economic sustainability) and of employment (social sustainability) as well as the minimization of agrochemical use and irrigation water consumption (environmental sustainability). The compromise is sought through different cropping patterns either by restructuring existing crops (Scenario 1) or by also introducing new crops (Scenario 2). The results show that solutions in Scenario 2 performs much better in all dimensions of sustainability, however large increases in economic performance and employment come with lower environmental gains. A Cost-Benefit Analysis shows that very few solutions yield positive Net Present Value and the investment could be halted if benefits relating to social and environmental sustainability are disregarded. Results are discussed in conjunction to the proposal of a new governance scheme, which could assume broader roles in supporting sustainable development.


  • Achievement of sustainable development through irrigation works.

  • Quantification of social and environmental benefits from an irrigation work.

  • Examination of simultaneous achievement of conflicting objectives.

  • New insights in governance of irrigation networks for sustainable development through public-private partnerships.

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