Assessment of irrigation and environmental quality at the hydrological basin level – I. Irrigation quality

Book Title: NA
Year Published: 2004
Month Published: DEC 25
Author: Causape, J ; Quilez, D ; Aragues, R
Book Group Author: NA

Irrigated agriculture notably increases crop productivity, but consumes high volumes of water and may induce off-site pollution of receiving water bodies. The objectives of this paper were to diagnose the quality of irrigation and to prescribe recommendations aimed at improving irrigation management and reducing the off-site pollution from a 15,500 ha irrigation district located in the Ebro River Basin (Spain). Three hydrological basins were selected within the district where the main inputs (irrigation, precipitation, and groundwater inflows) and outputs (actual crop's evapotranspiration, surface drainage outflows, and groundwater outflows) of water were measured or estimated during a hydrological year. The highest volume of water (I = 1400 mm/year) was applied in the basin with highly permeable, low water retention, flood irrigated soils where 81% of the total surface was planted with alfalfa and corn. This basin had the lowest consumptive water use efficiency (CWUE = 45%), the highest water deficit (WD = 5%) and the highest drainage fraction (DF = 57%). In contrast, the lowest I (950 mm/year), the highest CWUE (62%), and the lowest WD (2%) and DF (37%) were obtained in the basin with 60% of the surface covered with deep, high water retention, alluvial valley soils, where 39% of the cultivated surface is sprinkler irrigated and with only 48% of the surface planted with alfalfa and corn. We concluded that the three most important variables determining the quality of irrigation and the volume of irrigation return flows in the studied basins were (i) soil characteristics, (ii) irrigation management and irrigation system, and (iii) crop water requirements. Therefore, the critical recommendations for improving the quality of irrigation are to (i) increase the efficiency of flood-irrigation, (ii) change to pressurized systems in the shallow and highly permeable soils, and (iii) reuse of drainage water for irrigation within the district. These management strategies will conserve water of high quality in the main reservoir and will decrease the crop water deficits and the volume of irrigation return flows, therefore, minimizing the off-site pollution from this irrigation district. (C) 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Pages: 195-209
Volume: 70
Number: 3
Journal ISO: Agric. Water Manage.
Organization: NA
ISSN: 0378-3774
DOI: 10.1016/j.agwat.2004.06.005

water; irrigation efficiency; hydrological basin; soil; drainage

Source: Web of Science
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