Irrigation in sub-humid environments: a comparison of three cultures

R. H. Jackson, A. Soffer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The use of irrigation to intensify crop production is widespread. Superficial morphological, administrative, and socio-economic similarities between sites separated by time, space and culture prompted an analysis of three cultural groups in similar geographical settings to determine the extent of cross-cultural similarities in irrigation practice. The groups analyzed were Mormon settlements in the Wasatch Mountains of the United States, and Jewish and Arab settlements in the Jordan Valley of Israel and Jordan. Analysis of irrigation use among the three groups revealed marked similarities in organizational, administrative and technological practices. In each case, irrigation practice has progressed from simple community-based diversion to large-scale diversion schemes as population and political organization increased. Minor differences concerning ownership of water rights were the only notable exceptions to the broad similarity between the groups. In terms of water development practice, each group progressed through essentially similar stages, reflecting the level of water demand in each society. We hypothesize on the basis of the examination of the study groups that irrigation-based societies progress through a sequence of irrigation practices, from Stage 1 (simple diversion) to Stage 5 (societal-wide adoption of laws and projects to maximize efficiency of water use), as population growth intensifies demand on limited water resources in sub-humid environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)383-401
Number of pages19
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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