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Irrigation evaluation based on performance analysis and water accounting at the Bear River Irrigation Project (U.S.A.)

AuthorsLecina Brau, Sergio CSIC; Neale, C. M. U.; Merkley, G. P.; dos Santos, C. A. C.
Keywordsland productivity
surface irrigation
water accounting
water balance,
water consumption
water depletion
water management
water productivity
Issue DateJul-2011
CitationLecina S, Neale CMU, Merkeley GP, dos Santos CAC. Irrigation evaluation based on performance analysis and water accounting at the Bear River Irrigation Project (U.S.A.). Agricultural water management 98 (9): 349-1363 (2011)
AbstractThe purpose of this work is to contribute to the development of a combined approach to evaluate irrigated areas based on: (1) irrigation performance analysis intended to assess the productive impacts of irrigation practices and infrastructures, and (2) water accounting focused on the hydrological impacts of water use. Ador-Simulation, a combined model that simulates irrigation, water delivery, and crop growth and production was applied in a surface irrigated area (1213 ha) located in the Bear River Irrigation Project, Utah, U.S.A.. A soil survey, a campaign of on-farm irrigation evaluations and an analysis of the database from the Bear River Canal Company and other resources were performed in order to obtain the data required to simulate the water flows of the study area in 2008. Net land productivity (581 US$ ha−1) was 20% lower than the potential value, whereas on-farm irrigation efficiency (IE) averaged only 60%. According to the water accounting, water use amounted to 14.24 Mm3, 86% of which was consumed through evapotranspiration or otherwise non-recoverable. Gross water productivity over depleted water reached 0.132 US$ m−3. In addition, two strategies for increasing farm productivity were analyzed. These strategies intended to improve water management and infrastructures raised on-farm IE to 90% reducing the gap between current and potential productivities by about 50%. Water diverted to the project was reduced by 2.64 Mm3. An analysis based on IE could lead to think that this volume would be saved. However, the water accounting showed that actually only 0.91 Mm3 would be available for alternative uses. These results provide insights to support the decision-making processes of farmers, water user associations, river basin authorities and policy makers. Water accounting overcomes the limitations and hydrological misunderstandings of traditional analysis based on irrigation efficiency to assess irrigated areas in the context of water scarcity and competitive agricultural markets.
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