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Evaluating irrigation performance in a Mediterranean environment. II. Variability among crops and farmers

AuthorsLorite, Ignacio J.; Mateos, Luciano CSIC ORCID ; Fereres Castiel, Elías CSIC ORCID
Issue DateMay-2004
CitationIrrig Sci (2004) 23: 85–92
AbstractCharacterizing water use and management in irrigated agriculture is a prerequisite for conserving agricultural water. We carried out a detailed analysis of irrigation erformance by documenting the water use of about 840 parcels in an irrigation scheme (Genil–Cabra irrigation scheme; GCIS) located in Andalusia, southern Spain, from 1996 to 2000. Performance indicators based on the water balance detected two water-management strategies, depending on the crop: (1) cotton, garlic, maize and sugar beet had average ratios of measured irrigation supply to the simulated optimum demand (ARIS) ranging between 0.73 and 0.91 and (2) winter cereals, sunflower and olive had a much lower average ARIS (with a 4-year average of 0.28–0.39). We found a large variability in water usage among the management units in all cases. For instance, in cotton, even though the average ARIS was around 0.8, about 50% of the fields were not irrigated adequately (41% with deficit, 9% with excess). Water productivity (WP) in the GCIS was highest for the horticultural crops (garlic, olive; from 1.13 /m3 to 6.52 /m3) while it varied among the field crops, being lowest in maize (4-year average of 0.28 /m3) and highest in sugar beet (4-year average of 1.04 /m3). Large year-to-year variations in WP were observed in all crops, particularly in sunflower and garlic due either to fluctuating prices for garlic or to the effects of the 1998/1999 drought for sunflower. In fact, WP was lowest in all crops in that year, because seasonal irrigation depths were much higher than in the other 3 years. The combination of ARIS and other performance performance indicators allowed for determining performance levels and improvement measures. It was found that if more irrigation water is used in the GCIS, garlic and olive will be the crops that profit most from the additional supply. However, it was concluded that, given the wide range in water use and management encountered at the parcel level, improvement policies at the scheme level should always consider individual performance when designing measures for water conservation in irrigated agriculture.
Publisher version (URL)http://doi.org/10.1007/s00271-004-0096-8
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