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New Water Rights for Basin Management and Inclusivity in Spate Irrigated Areas of Pakistan - Flood-Based Livelihoods Network

July 02, 2021


Spate irrigation is a unique water resource system that makes productive use of short duration floods in dry river beds. It is common in Pakistan, covering an area of 1 Million ha . The Newarbi project aims to optimize the current spate systems by revising the water distribution rules in those dry river systems that have benefited from technical interventions in the headworks. It is envisioned that the systems are brought up to date after changes made to main headworks and resource use, thereby optimizing their overall productivity and promoting their inclusivity, especially for the weakest downstream users. In addition a whole range of improvements – related to crop agronomy, livestock keeping, small mechanization and water storage, based on proven experiences elsewhere in similar water systems will be introduced through farmer groups.


Project summary

The project aims to contribute towards the re-setting of water distribution rules in target command areas, thereby promoting efficient water use in agriculture for better livelihood opportunities. It requires a range of activities, including training, capacity building, empowerment of the weakest stakeholders, lobby and advocacy at the district level, and command area infrastructure development. There is a need for a good mix of expertise related to both social change processes and concrete action in the field of water management rules and regulations and improved practices. This requires a partnership of organisations that each offer their own specific value for the actions to be made in Pakistan.


The project is jointly carried out by:


Project outcomes

The project is built around three themes and for each theme a number of outcomes have been defined:


  1. Improved and equitable utilization of productive floodwater (Work Package 2)
    1. Functional Joint Management Committee (JMCs) and network in each command area, able to oversee the new water distribution agreements and address conflicts between command areas
    2. Regulated and more equitable distribution of water, taking into account the new head works, with at least 10% more water going to mid and downstream communities and/or access to drinking water regulated.
    3. Average 20% increase in gross biomass yield in kilograms per cubic meter of water of water available (flood water) during irrigation season, set against the patterns of useable spate-flows (flood water) during irrigation season
  2. New livelihood opportunities through improved land and water management practices (Work Package 3)
    1. At least 6 new appropriate livelihood opportunities are in practice in the two sub-basins, benefitting 19,500 people with increased income and improved water productivity. In particular the aim is that each newly introduced practices brings 10% net productivity increase and/or 10% net income increase.
  3. Out scaling and dissemination of recalibrated water distribution rules and livelihood opportunities (Work Package 4)
    1. Changes to water rights and rules recognized as a priority issue by 4 non-project areas by district/provincial governments and funding parties.
    2. Demonstrated new livelihood opportunities being promoted in 4 non-project areas


Theory of Change

The project logic has been drafted into a Theory of Change. The schematic presentation of the Theory of Change can be downloaded here.







Latest video (Oct 2022): Low cost shallow wells for drinking water for flood victims in Balochistan, Pakistan




Project updates


Flood assessment reports (August/September 2022)


  • Livelihoods Brochure (English / Sindhi)
  • Spate Irrigation Brochure (brochure)
  • Photobook – Spate irrigation in practice and pictures
  • Project website on RVO’s M&E platform (website)
  • Fair Spate Irrigation from the Source‘, article on the project as part of the newsletter of the Sustainable Water Fund, July 2022 (newsletter)
  • Health and Hygiene – Training Manual (Urdu)
  • Homestead Poultry Keeping Manual (English)
  • Organic Guar Value Chain Report
  • Overview Paper
    • 18 – Spate Irrigation in Nai Gaj, Pakistan: Status and Potential (English)
  • Practical Notes
    • 29 – Improvements in the Design of Flood Diversion Structures (English)
    • 34 – Study on the Ecosystem of the Kachi Plain with Focus on Spate Irrigated Areas of Bhag Narri, Balochistan – Pakistan (English)
    • 38 – The Use of Trees and Shrubs in Spate Irrigation Areas (English)
    • 40 – Usage of Wild Trees on Private Farm Land in Spate Irrigated Areas (English)
    • 41 – Local Vegetable Production in Spate Irrigated Areas, Experiences from The Kachi Plain Flood Irrigated System in Pakistan (English)
  • Presentations:
    • Presentation to FDW community on scaling of the approach (presentation) – 30 September 2021
    • Presentation to FDW community on floods (presentation) – 27 September 2022
    • Presentation during 2023 Pakistan Water Week on ‘Management of Hill Torrents: Opportunities and Challenges –
      Untapped Potential of Spate Irrigation in Pakistan’ (presentation) – 5 December 2023