What is Spate Irrigation?

Spate irrigation is a type of water management, that is unique to semi-arid environments. It is found in the Middle East, North Africa, West Asia, East Africa and parts of Latin America. Flood water from mountain catchments is diverted from river beds (wadi’s) and spread over large areas. Spate systems are very risk-prone. The uncertainty comes both from the unpredictable nature of the floods and the frequent changes to the river beds from which the water is diverted. It is often the poorest segments of the rural population whose livelihood and food security depends on the spate flows. Substantial local wisdom has developed in organizing spate systems and managing both the flood water and the heavy sediment loads that go along with it.

Constructing a large river diversion structure - earthworks and gabions (Wadi Labka, Eritrea)

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