A comparative analysis of irrigation related issues and effectiveness of water policies in India and Australia is conducted to help share the learning from each other’s experience in sustainable irrigation management. Keeping in pace with the global trend of implementing a sustainable water management program, India has adopted the concept of participatory irrigation management (PIM) while Australia has adopted irrigation management transfer (IMT) program. PIM in India is regarded as experimentation in diverse socio-economic settings with mixed results while IMT in Australia has achieved a high level of water use efficiency. Australian irrigation industry is currently driven by market mechanisms where water trading is expected to lead to greater efficiency. However, there are concerns that sole reliance on water use (or economic) efficiency objective may conflict with the objectives of social equity and ecological sustainability. Similar to Australia, there is an opportunity for water markets in India. However, conflict in the objectives of efficiency, equity and sustainability constrain the debate of establishing water markets in India. The comparative analysis indicates that despite both countries have a common goal of sustainable water management, their strategies differ. Nevertheless, India can emulate many of the Australian experiences in water policy reforms, entitlements, institutional arrangements, and corporate style of management while Australia can adopt the best Indian traditions of decentralized participatory and community management for sustainable irrigation water management.

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