As water increasingly becomes a precious resource on which the well-being of future generations depends, the pressure is mounting to manage our water resources more effectively. With this in mind, HR Wallingford Ltd took the lead on a DFID-funded project to increase the performance and services of irrigation schemes through the use of benchmarking as a regular management tool.
Based on the results from pilot evaluations carried out on schemes in Mexico, China, India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Australia, a final project report (HR Report OD155 ‘Performance benchmarking in the irrigation and drainage sector’) was circulated to policy makers in the World Bank and several irrigation agencies. The evidence shows that where benchmarking is used as a regular management tool it can raise managers’ awareness of actual and potential levels of performance. However, it also shows that national and international agencies need to continue to invest resources in improving agricultural water management service delivery if agricultural policy shapers are to have any influence on improved levels of service. The experiences and outcomes of irrigation performance benchmarking, documented by this project, in China and Mexico in particular, can inform that process.