Contemporary State of Irrigation


Agricultural Academy

Research Institute for Land Reclamation and

Agricultural Mechanization






Assoc. Prof. Sonya Chehlarova-Simeonova, PhD

Assoc. Prof. Milena Moteva, PhD

Nature Challenges

• Bulgaria is situated in the sub-humid zone. The conditions are moist sub-humid in April-June and dry sub-humid in July-


• The water supply for optimal crop growing and for obtaining high crop yields is insufficient, uncertain and variable.

• Precipitations in a medium-dry year (75% probability of the rainfall vegetation period sum) share the potential evapotranspiration of the winter crops total up to 35-40% and of the spring crops - 25-30%. No high and steady yields can be obtained without irrigation.

• Average yield increase under irrigation in comparison to rainfed agriculture is 52%: South BG – 57%, North BG – 46%.

Per crops: Orchards – 95%; Sugar beet – 87%, Maize (grain)

– 85%; Wheat – 34%.

• Tendencies of climate warming and drought were established.

Historical challenges

Irrigation is a world ancient agricultural practice:

• The Sumer’s civilization - 3000 BC, Egypt, India and China,

Europe - 2500 BC on Crete Island.

Irrigation is an old agricultural practice in Bulgaria:

• The Thracians , the Bulgarians of the 1 st and 2 nd Bulgarian kingdom irrigated the lands round the great rivers and constructed devices for water supply and sewerage.

• At the beginning of 15 th century starts the cultivation of rice.

Irrigation in the newly history of Bulgaria:

• 1908 – A Bureau for Water Management and Melioration

• 1920 – A General State Program for the Waters and the Water

Syndicates and occurred the idea of elaborating water economy plans.

• 1946 – the agricultural territory is state-owned and the activity of the water syndicates faded away.

1951 - Design Institute

“Vodproect”, 1951 - Construction Company “Vodstroy”, and 1953 -

Research Institute for Hydrotechnics and Amelioration”

Historical challenges

An Advance in the Irrigation Management from the 50s to 90s of 20 th Century:

• A sophisticated and large-scaled hydro-melioration network was constructed, including dams, pump stations, storage reservoire, water delivering and distribution network of open canals, pressurized pumps and devices. 1989 arable lands were till

• Till 1989 г. 1,2 th. ha 29% of the arable land was irrigation- equipped was under irrigation and 50% of the agricultural production was obtained from those lands

• The design, construction and management of the irrigation systems laid on scientifically based methodological approaches consistent with the climatic conditions of the sites.

The Choice of an Irrigation Technology

Important factors:

• The water economy information,

• the design irrigation scheduling,

• the crop, and

• the climatic conditions.

Sprinkling is greatly influenced by the wind speed, wind direction and durability.

Surface irrigation is greatly dependent on the dynamics of the water table, related to the deep percolation under the first half of the furrow length.

Micro-irrigation - it is very important to choose the irrigation wings very precisely in order to be appropriate for the soil type and the irrigation scheduling.

Meteorological Zoning of the Irrigation Systems

• For information purposes, a meteorological zoning of the precipitations in the irrigation systems, on the base of a representative unit of 500 ha, was elaborated in the past. The other meteorological elements – air temperature, open water evaporation, solar radiation, wind speed and direction were measured for each 10 th. ha. These regions are devided into smaller ones – 200-5000 ha in natural borders.

• When zoning is based on air temperature , the territory of the irrigation system is divided into units of 1-3 th. ha.

• The meteorological regions are charted and connected to the meteorological stations and the hydrometeorological services.

These regions were periodically revised and actualized.

The Irrigation Scheduling

Important factors for irrigation timing:

• Quantity and distribution of rainfalls

• Air temperature

• Air humidity

• Wind speed

The irrigation scheduling of 33 crops was zoned over the territory of the country on administrative principle, including 97 regions in 6 agro-climatic groups of regions

Contemporary State of Irrigation

Since 1990 г. irrigation in Bulgaria has fallen into crisis, which still persists.

Arable land

2.6 million ha

Potentially irrigated

0.1 million ha


0.01 million ha

Contemporary State of Irrigation

Area, equipped for irrigation in Europe


Contemporary State of Irrigation

Yearly water consumption : 12,000 million m 3 :

Water use for irrigation is 154 million m 3 :

• 143 million m 3 – gravitational

• 10 million m 3 – pressurized



Contemporary State of Irrigation

Crop structure (2008)

100% = 2,675 th. ha



1% 4%









Contemporary State of Irrigation

Irrigated crops

100%=125,000 ha




Maize (grain)



Contemporary State of Irrigation

Irrigated area by type of irrigation equipment







1% sprinkler



Contemporary State of Irrigation

At present, there are in Bulgaria:

• 168 reservoires of total volume 3,115.0 million m 3 ,

• 7,228 km irrigation canals,

• 7,068 km 2 pressure pipelines,

• 235 irrigation systems,

• 681 pump stations,

• 250 km dikes along Danube River,

• 78 drainage systems.

• The farmers construct their own irrigation systems, fed by rivers, gullies, underground waters, microdams. Still, there is no official statistics for the scale of these irrigated areas.


• The hydromelioration network is almost fully destroyed.

• Lack of sufficient funds.

170 millions BGN are needed for rehabilitation and building of new irrigation systems and facilities.

• Unclear ownership rights of the land and facilities

• Fragmentation of the agricultural land and improper dimensions. Land consolidation is needed, but there are no legal conditions at present for that.

• No working Decision Support System for irrigation water management.

• Not enough training of the farmers in improved irrigation technologies and efficient water use.

• Lack of clear state strategy stimulating the water users to associate,

• Insecure market for the farmer’s production,

• Institutional problems

Water management legislation:

• Water Act (1999)

• The Agricultural Land Ownership and Usage Act

• Decree No.203 of the Council of Ministers for establishment of Executive

Agency for Hydromelioration

• The Water Users’ Association Act

• Soil Protection Act (amended 1999)

• Environmental Protection Act

• Regulation for the General Rules for Land Use

• Concession Act (amended 2000)

• Decision of the Council of Ministers for Measures against drought

• Regulation for investigation, usage and protection of underground waters

• Regulation for the emission norms of admissible content of harmful and dangerous substances in the waste waters, discharged in water objects.

• Regulation for the procedure of transfer and the using rights and ownership of the hydromelioration network to the WUAs

• Regulation for the irrigation water quality.

Ways for solution

In March 2003, the European Council called for a strengthening of the European research and innovation area by ‘… creating

European technology platforms

bringing together technological know-how, industry, regulators and financial institutions to develop

strategic agenda for leading technologies

Ways for solution

European technology platforms (ETPs)

European technology platforms (ETPs) were set up as industry-led stakeholder forums with the aim of defining medium to long-term research and technological objectives and developing roadmaps to achieve them. Their aim was to contribute to increasing synergies between different research actors, ultimately enhancing

European competitiveness.

At the end of 2008 there were 36 ETPs

Water Supply and Sanitation

Technology Platform - WssTP

Strategic research agenda - four major challenges:


Increased water stress and water costs,




Increased frequency and severity of extreme events,


Lack of significant infrastructure such as water and wastewater services in the rural and underdeveloped areas.

Water Supply and Sanitation

Technology Platform - WssTP

Pilot Program 3:

Sustainable water management for agriculture

Water saving options in irrigation;

Efficient techniques;

Irrigation management;

Adapted cropping practices.

Sustainable water management for agriculture

Challenges for irrigation and possibilities for improvement:

1. Irrigation techniques

Type of irrigation system;

Water supply of the field;

Channel automation;

Waste water reuse;

Water measuring devices.

Sustainable water management for agriculture

2. Irrigation management

Improving application efficiency

• Irrigation timing

• The depth applied

• Application uniformity

• Application rate

Sustainable water management for agriculture


Good irrigation planning


Range of water application depths


Optimising the use of rainwater


Deficit irrigation


Rainwater harvesting


Advice, education and information dissemination


Institutional arrangements


Water pricing


Biofuel crops

Sustainable water management for agriculture

3. Adapted cropping practices

• Modification of crop management practices

• The drought tolerance of crops

• Improved soil management

4. Benefits of irrigated agriculture for society and decision- makers

• Economic benefits

• Ecological benefits

• Social benefits

Sustainable water management for agriculture

5. Input for possible R&D proposals

• Better advisory;

• Education;

• Management instruments;

• Practical demonstration;

• Design and spread of the best management practices;

• Use of new technology;

• Improved monitoring practices and systems;

• Use of decision support systems;

• Use of web-based and available public databases (climate, soil, etc.) for realtime information;

• Sustainable storage of the water and the infrastructure for water delivery;

• Optimisation of water management for investment in more efficient multipurpose irrigation systems;

• Setting up an irrigation management plan

• More efficient irrigation practices such as deficit irrigation

Ways for solution

Adapting to climate change: Towards a

European framework for action

Farm-level adaptation

• Using water more efficiently by reducing water losses, improving irrigation practices, and recycling or storing water

• Improving soil management by increasing water retention to conserve soil moisture, and

• Landscape management , such as maintaining landscape features providing shelter to livestock

Ways for solution

Adapting to climate change: Towards a

European framework for action

Sectoral-level adaptation

• Enhancing investment in improved efficiency of irrigation infrastructure and water use technologies, as well as management of water resources,

• Developing irrigation plans based on thorough assessments of their impacts, future water availability and water needs of different users, taking account of the balance between demand and supply

• Developing risk and crisis management instruments to cope with the economic consequences of climate-driven events.

Ways for solution

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry

Rural areas Development Program 2007 -2013

The main strategic goal of the state policy in the field of agriculture is creation of efficient and competitive export oriented sustainable agricultural production.

This is impossible without a contemporary adaptation of the hydromelioration systems by efficient rehabilitation and restructuring.

Ways for solution

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry

Rural areas Development Program 2007 -2013

Priority axis 1 “improvement of competititveness in agriculture and forestry

Opening of Measure 125 and Measure 126 – rehabilitation and modernization of the irrigation infrastructure and that for water damaging prevention.

Priority investments

Irrigation is supported by the state. The budget for irrigation in 2003 – 7,870,000 BGN ). The investments:

• Construction of big irrigation and drainage pumping stations, canals, pressure pipelines, compensation resevoires, siphons, dam spillways

• Repair of the hydro-melioration facilities and installations

– canals, pipelines, water-catchments, floodgates

• Repair/reconstruction of anti-flooding facilities – correction of rivers, dikes alongside Danube River, etc.

• Construction of dams and reconstruction of big facilities

• Construction and reconstruction of small-scale hydromelioration facilities and providing water

Ways for solution

• Creation of new short- and long-term strategies for development of irrigation

• Developing and adopting a new low on irrigation and drainage

• Amendment of the Irrigation Association Act.

• Amendment of the Regulation of the hydromelioration infrastructure user right and ownership to WUAs.

• Amendment of the Regulation for financial support to WUAs.

• Preparation of short- and long-term investment plans.

• Implementation of series of pilot projects for rehabilitation of the hydromelioration infrastructure

• Establishment of a public cadastre of the hydromelioration infrastructure.

Thank you!