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10.4The status of cost recovery mechanism of irrigation water availability

The currently applied charges incurred for irrigated lands in accordance with irrigation water availability are based on the legislative decree no. /8/ dated 12 February 1996: The beneficiaries of state irrigation projects are subject to annual costs called irrigation charge per areas benefited from such projects for water provision, costs of O&M necessary for irrigation and drainage facilities according to a decision issued by the Prime Minister".

However, analysis of the status of water availability for different uses as well as cost elements including labour wages, service inputs, (O&M, research & trials, media & information, machinery hiring, energy, and other services), value of consumables (fuel, oils, spare parts….), current costs (interests of due debts for the treasury). This analysis demonstrates the main constraints to definition of due charges for water availability especially for irrigation water supply, because of large variation among these components according to areas, supply quality, and quality of rendered services.

The ministerial decision no. /5/ dated 21 November 1999 amended irrigation charges as follows:

- Permanent charge (throughout the farming season) 3500 SP/ha

- Supplementary winter irrigation 600 SP/ha

The governmental commission authorized to calculate the costs of irrigation water availability concluded in June 1993 to a weight average figure of 4160 SP/ha at national level for all state irrigation projects (supplied by gravity and pumped irrigation). This figure reached to an average of 5590 SP/ha for pumping-irrigated projects of the Euphrates valley excluding the interests of fixed capital of such projects, depreciations, and the cost incurred for the General Establishment of the Euphrates Dam. In addition, the collection of financial reserve for developing networks and modernizing their management was excluded, considering that the charge imposed by the ministerial decision after five years has accounted for only 44 – 60% of this cost.

The agricultural water requirements constitute 85 – 90% of total uses in Syria at gross irrigation efficiency below 45%. The government, therefore, funds the establishment of irrigation projects and all needed infrastructures, and it partially or completely recovers this cost from the beneficiaries during 25 – 30 years by project and objective (energy, irrigation, drinking water, domestic use, etc.). The government also undertakes O&M for partial recovery of irrigation costs per unit area, cropping pattern, and crop rotation.

Moreover, the idea of O&M cost recovery unseriously dealt as a mechanism for water demand rationalization, considering that water is an economic rather than social commodity that should provided by the government without financial burdens on the beneficiaries.

Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform (MAAR) in its letter no. 2408 dated 8th November 2003 stressed " The necessity to define irrigation charges (O&M) to cover all availability costs as a rationalization mechanism and farmers' compensation by supporting production inputs or prices, together with the need to equip irrigation project or rehabilitation to measure the applied water volumes per unit area in line with actually allocated water volumes and to be just with farmers using rational irrigation methods. It is worth-mentioning that it is preferred to calculate irrigation charges according to withdrawn water volumes per one hectare rather than per unit area.

The unique shift in mind concerning the increased yield per unit area, water and energy for all WRs-exploiting socio-economic sectors as an indicator of for WRs rationalization is a unique leap in the government and public planning and practices (administrative, investment and legal) at all levels. In addition, the relevance of the methodology of cost recovery in line with Cairo Declaration for the Arab cooperation principles for the use, development and protection of WRs as water is unsaleable free natural resource. The policies and approaches of cost definition and partial/complete recovery mechanisms should focus on the services of water delivery to beneficiaries according to privacy of each country, ensuring improved and developed quality of rendered services and provision of adequate resources for transition processes without an increase in production costs to a level that limits competition.

As demand management is the control of water requirements for different activities quantitatively and qualitatively and irrespective of water supply quality and quantity regarding WRs demand & supply balance and to overcome the challenges and difficulties facing supply and rational use of water, it should be initiated from the:

  • Establishment of companies for exploitation and maintenance of irrigation projects according to an economic principle in all water basins.

  • The government will bear the value of social support for the poor segments of water consumers (drinking water or agricultural water).

  • The beneficiary should not bear the mistakes made by others (agency or competent authority – including extra charges and revenues).

  • Costs should be calculated at efficiency of 70 – 75% added to 10% for modernization and development.

  • The supplier bears all costs incurred for efficiency decline below established value.

  • Incentives for personnel at competent institutions at a percent of returns gained because of efficiency increase over established level or saving in investment and current costs.

  • The suppliers should have the right to calculate costs according to the above criteria.

This is fulfilled by obligatory periodic inspection to evaluate the performance and efficiency of all irrigation systems and drinking networks and (dam, water source, canals and pipes of conveyance and distribution, mechanical & electric equipment related to measurement and control, operating system and programming, etc.) as stipulated in the water code:

  • The entity authorized to evaluate and performance of water systems should be beyond the competent authorities (neutral entity) characterized by scientific experience and owns necessary equipment and experts.

  • The authorized agency shall assess the efficiency of water systems each source separately.

  • The authorized agency shall state the reasons, failure places, and the extent of each reason for efficiency reduction (design, implementation, maintenance, management, operation, and technical staff).

  • This agency submits its report including scientific and practical recommendation for solving the problems and difficulties.

  • The performance is evaluated according to local and international established criteria (by competent agencies and General Commission for Standardization).

  • The authorized agency has the right to evaluate the request for incentives, allowances, and penalties (without the intervention of control agencies).

Here, the importance of studying the experiment of Bukros cooperative, which irrigated from the Lower Euphrates in Deir Ezzor Governorate, where charges for irrigation water availability all over the season and adopted by this cooperative exceeded those adopted in other areas of Syria as follows:

- Irrigated wheat: 7000 – 10000 SP/ha

- Cotton: 10000 – 12000 SP/ha

- Summer & winter vegetables up to 30000 SP/ha

About 0.3 – 0.5% of the above amount is gone to renewal and replacement purposes and about 0.5 – 0.7% of the remained amount is considered as an emergency reserve for the cooperative. In spite of this, the agricultural production is still profitable.

Finally, the philosophy of cost recovery per unit area followed in Syria so far irrespective of the two parameters:

  • Applied water amount per unit area

  • Cropping pattern and crop rotation plus water requirement

The philosophy is no longer suitable for the importance of water as a scarce and limited resource and strategic dimension, therefore, it is inevitable to analyze the experiments of the countries receded Syria and to benefit from their accumulative experiences in cost recovery as a mainstay for economic restructure, including agricultural economy and adaptation to Syrian circumstance through a technical work team comprising multi-disciplinary specialists (water economies, WRs management, water laws, etc). A pilot area in one of the regular irrigation projects should be selected to apply the principle of cost recovery and to study the resulting positive and negative impacts on farm income, water demand, water availability and productivity. Support of farmers' participatory approach by helping them set up water users associations and taking good advantage of local experience for participatory work in water management and distribution in certain Syria areas, stressing on:

  • The reduction or cancellation of subsidizing water availability cost (irrigation water) is unrelated to water pricing or considering water as an economic commodity related to supply & demand factors, but to the necessity of water availability.

  • The aim of developing practices and approaches of cost recovery (cost of irrigation water availability) is basically represented by sustainable agricultural development issues and deepening water awareness for beneficiaries.

  • The necessity for actual support for establishing WUAs as an efficient tool for successful application of cost recovery policies and irrigation efficiency improvement.

  • The necessity to keep abreast with the application of cost recovery policies for tangible improvements in irrigation and water availability services and provision of better service and connection between cost and recovery according to "You get what you pay" principle.

  • Possible systematic following-up of water availability cost and observance of equality in the estimation of due value should be considered.

  • The importance of establishing a special fund for cost recovery resources as an independent fund in terms of government expenditures of management, O&M, and rehabilitation.


  • Water resource availability for exploitation – Ministry of Irrigation (MoI), Damascus, 2002

  • Current status and future demand development approaches of water resources till the year 2025 – DIWU – Supreme Council of Sciences (SCS), Damascus, 2001.

  • Features of the national strategy for water resource use – MAAR – MoI.

  • Preliminary national plan proposed for implementing the guidelines of agricultural development strategy on water resource management and use rationalization in Syrian agriculture – ANRR, MAAR, 2005.

  • Syrian statistical abstract – Central Bureau of Statistics and Planning, MAAR, 2002/2003.

  • Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform (MAAR). 2005. Annual Statistical Abstract. Damascus, Syria.

  • Ministry of Irrigation (MoI). 2005. Water resource availability for exploitation. Technical report . Damascus, Syria, 2005.

  • Daoud, M. (2006). Water resources management and planning in the Syrian Arab Republic: A perspective toward the development of water sector to attain sustainable and integrated management. Syrian-Japanese water symposium, June 2006. Administration of Natural Resources Research (ANRR), Damascus.

  • Soumi, G; Chayeb, R; and Daoud, M. (2003). Water Resources use in the Syrian Arab Republic for agricultural purposes up to 2030 " A pivotal paper submitted to the conference of WRs sciences and technology – 43rd Week of Science". ANRR – GCSAR, Damascus.

  • Daoud, M. Legislation and laws of WRs use and development in the Syrian Arab Republic. " A country paper submitted to the Regional workshop: Tripolic, 11-13 July 2000". Directorate of Irrigation and Water Uses (now ANRR). 2000.

  • Daoud, M. and Kaisi, A. Promoting the role of WUAs in WRs rationalization and protection for Syrian agriculture. " A country paper submitted to the Arab Organization for Agricultural Development (AOAD)". DIWU. Damascus, Syria.


Thanks for MELIA Partner contributions
Dr. Faycel Chenini (Institut National de Recherche en Génie Rural et Forêts, Tunisia), Water political concept in Tunisia: options for water sector development
Pr. Alaa El-Din Abdin (WP5 co-Leader) (Ministry of water resources and irrigation, Egypt), Water policies in Egypt
Pr. Maroun El Moujabber (Centre international de Hautes Etudes Agronomiques Méditerranéennes – Instituto Agronomico Mediterraneo of Bari, Italy), Water managegement, policies and legislation related to water use in Lebanee agriculture
Pr. Laila Mandi (Université Cadi Ayyad, Marrakech, Morocco), Integrated water management in Morocco
Pr. Muhammad Shatanawi (Faculty of Agriculture, University of Jordan), Water policies in Jordan
Pr. Dora Chimonidou (Agricultural Research Institute, Cyprus), Regulatory and legal backgroung in the fiels of water resources in Cyprus
Pr. C. López, I. Martín and C. Alcácer (Centre for New Water Technologies, Spain), Water policy In Spain: A portrait
Gaëlle Nion (International Office for water, France), Water policy and water management in France
Pr. Marie- Louise Zammit (Institute of Agriculture, University of Malta), Maltese and Eu legislation in the water sector
Pr. Sahnaz Tigrek (middle East Technical University – Water Resources Center, Turkey), Turkey, Water policies analysis grid
Pr. Marie-Louise Zammit (Institute for Agriculture, University of Malta), Maltese and EU legislation in water sector
Pr. A. Kaisi (General Commission for Scientific Agricultural Research Administration of Natural Resources Research), Cost recovery mechanism of irrigation water availability in the Syrian Arab Republic

Linked WP5 MELIA deliverables :
D37 bis: Synthesis report on water policies

D38: Consensus report for recommendations on WLAW

D39: Conceptual frame on WLAw in the Mediterranean.

International Office for Water – FRANCE - P7 MELIA

WP5 leader

Gaëlle Nion

October 2009

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