Effective irrigation-Achieving sustainability and performance - Part 2


"Agricultural production is expected to double in volume in the coming three decades, creating an inevitable and drastic increase in the need for water. Already irrigation accounts for approximately 70% of total water withdrawals worldwide. If future generations are to have access to adequate resources, we must act now to improve our use of water for agriculture, particularly in the world's dry regions.

Be smart

The key to solving this complex dilemma lies in a multi-faceted approach. Water problems must be handled within an overall framework of environmental, economic and social responsibility. It is important to adopt "smart" irrigation technologies that encourage the effective use of water, prevent losses and ensure irrigation uniformity.

Smart irrigation requires painstaking equipment design, careful choice of methods, and regular maintenance and performance assessment of equipment both in the laboratory and in the field. The International Standards for irrigation equipment developed by ISO technical committee ISO/TC 23 subcommittee SC 18, Irrigation and drainage equipment and systems, play a vital role in meeting these goals by addressing materials, equipment performance, test methods, data interpretation and performance reporting. To date, ISO/TC 23/SC 18 has prepared more than 30 standards on irrigation equipment, with others in the pipeline, covering a range of specific subjects.

A matter of definition

Definitions are fundamental for writing standards. Subcommittee 18's working group WG 1 maintains an internal working document that is updated annually to include new definitions introduced from the committee's work programme as technology evolves.

The internal definitions document is an important resource for standards project leaders, helping reduce development time and promoting uniformity of definitions in agricultural irrigation standards. A version of the definitions document is also maintained for use by other organizations involved in agricultural irrigation, such as the International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage (ICID).

Needs of developing countries

It is important to understand the needs of developing countries in testing agricultural irrigation components for compliance with declared specifications. The intent of ISO/TR 15155:2005, Test facilities for agricultural irrigation equipment, is to make it possible for these countries to test components without the capital investment required for an accredited national test laboratory. This technical report provides information to complement the detailed procedures included in the standards for testing of agricultural irrigation system components, specifically emitters, sprayers, sprinklers and valves.

Work is being carried out on a new part to this report, which will provide information about the design and operation of the physical facility, including information about equipment and instrument maintenance, receiving and testing components, and reporting of results.

Preventing waste and pollution

In many countries, the use of water for agricultural irrigation is subject to less stringent measurements than potable water. An official measurement in accordance with metrological rules is still important. ISO 7714:2008, Agri- cultural irrigation equipment- Volumetric valves - General requirements and test methods, defines an accessory that accurately measures the exact amount of water required for an irrigated area and automatically closes after supplying the proper amount.

This standard spotlights the trend towards more efficient use of limited global water resources and provides significant savings in the amount of water required for obtaining an optimal crop. Chemigation, the application of fertilizers, soil amendments or other water-soluble products through an irrigation system, is commonly employed as part of routine irrigation. The irrigation water conveys the chemicals to the field and uniformly distributes them to the plants. However, an undesirable side- effect of this practice is that when the well is shut down, the chemical-laden water can flow back into the well and pollute the groundwater. A chemigation valve assembly stops this backflow. Performance standards for such valves are under development."

To find out more about ISO Environmental Management Standards and the work of the ABBS kindly contact the Antigua and Barbuda Bureau of Standards, Corner Redcliffe Street & Corn Alley, P.O. Box 1550, St. John's, Antigua (W.I.) or Telephone 462-2424 or email: abbs@antigua.gov.ag.


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