Design and management of water resource systems is complex and requires approximate analysis. Among the most important factors to be considered are: water demand, water supply, available technology, management techniques, and the ease of obtaining pertinent information.
Water resource management is of paramount importance in agricultural development. Sustained socioeconomic development in countries with irrigated agriculture could be limited by water availability and deterioration in water quality. Indeed, irrigation, which constitutes approximately 84% of the total water demand, has become increasingly important due to its high use and generally low efficiency. Consequently, any effort made to improve water use in irrigation practices will have a marked effect on sustainable agriculture (see Ecological Economics 2).
Additionally, agriculture has to compete with the growing demand for water from other sectors and with the need to obtain more and better production. From an economic perspective, a growing water demand from urban and industrial sectors will force agriculture to use water efficiently due to its diminished availability. This incentive will be even greater in areas with limited water supply.
Inefficient irrigation practices considerably reduce crop and fruit production. Water unused in the productive process in irrigated agriculture implies a loss of energy, labor, fertilizer, irrigated soil potential, and water. Water use in agriculture can be significantly improved by optimal design and management of irrigation systems. The design and selection of irrigation and water management systems should be based on maximizing economic and social benefits, resulting in greater well-being for the population.
An economic and financial global effort has increased water availability through the construction of dams, river improvements, channel water-proofing, pipe distribution systems, desalinization plants, and water recovery systems. However, the efficiency of water application in agriculture remains low.
In the last two decades, a revolution in the decision-making process in the US and Europe has occurred and has been produced by an ample acceptance of systems analysis techniques, computational advances, and software development. Optimization techniques are needed to assist engineers and planners in the planning and management of farm-level and larger agricultural projects.
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