Water harvesting: sustaining production in the dry months

A recent meeting was held between members of the Ministry of Agriculture, HSAD, University of Salahddinah, and Iraqi-Kurdistan region officials, to agree the management and implementation of a new water harvesting project.  Two areas close to Erbil were selected as sites for small water harvesting reservoirs. The reservoirs will store water that nearby farmers can use as supplemental irrigation for their crops. The sites will act as models for other areas. They will also facilitate research into the management of reservoir water. 
 
HSAD will build earth dams on seasonal streams, allowing the reservoirs to collect runoff rain water in the winter, which can then be used on surrounding farms in the drier spring months, from March through to May. Research has shown that supplemental irrigation increases grain yields by up over 250% – providing a huge boost to local communities.
 
The two sites have been chosen for the reservoirs based on a number of ideal criteria. These include the surface shape and the elevation of land – ensuring that the maximum amount of runoff water will flow into the reservoir area where it will be stored. Assessing the topography will also ensure the surface area of the reservoir is not so large that evaporation in the summer will present a significant problem. 
 
Also considered was the amount of rainfall received by the two selected reservoir sites, with the first receiving between 300–350 mm annually, and the second between 450–500 mm. The willingness of the surrounding community to get involved with the project was also taken into account, since the more engaged and supportive the community, the more successful the project is likely to be.
 
The project is due to be completed in stages. Given that each reservoir needs to be designed for optimal water storage, underlying rock types and formations, as well as the water flow under the ground, will first be assessed by engineers. Following this, the reservoir and dam themselves will be constructed, and finally, the systems to transfer the water from the reservoirs onto farmland will be designed and put in place. This final phase is expected to begin in February 2014.