Manila, Philippines (BBN)– Asia’s ageing irrigation systems must be revitalized to produce more crops with less water in the face of the region’s surging demand for food, a rising population, and stressed water resources, studies said on Wednesday.

The studies were tabled at the Water: Crisis and Choices – ADB and Partners Conference 2010, organized by the Asian Development Bank. The 5–day event has brought together over 600 water professionals and policy makers from around the world to examine the critical water challenges facing Asia, and the measures needed to overcome them.

Asia accounts for 70 percent of the world’s irrigated land and is home to some of the oldest and largest irrigation schemes. It also draws 80 percent of its available freshwater resources. But most systems were built before the 1970’s, function poorly and often fail to match the needs of farmers.

“Asia’s population will reach 5 billion by 2050 and feeding 1.5 billion additional people will require irrigation systems that generate more value per drop of water,” says the study Growing More Food With Less Water: How Can Revitalizing Asia’s Irrigation Help?.

The study – authored by Aditi Mukherji, David Molden, and Colin Chartres of the International Water Management Institute, and Thierry Facon of the Food and Agriculture Organization – notes that while the total area under irrigation continues to rise in most parts of Asia, systems are irrigating less land than originally intended, water productivity is low, crop output has stagnated and many farmers are exiting formal schemes.

BBN/SSR/SI-13Oct10-11:15 am (BST)