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Evaluation of changing surface water abstraction reliability for supplemental irrigation under climate change

M. Rio, D. Rey, C. Prudhomme and I.P. Holman

Agricultural Water Management, 2018, vol. 206, issue C, 200-208

Abstract: In many temperate parts of the world, supplemental irrigation is crucial to assure both crop yield and quality. Climate change could increase the risks of irrigation being restricted by increasing crop water requirements and/or decreasing water availability. In England, water abstraction for irrigation is limited by maximum annual volumetric limits, as specified in the abstraction licences, and surface water abstraction restrictions imposed by the regulator during drought. This paper assesses how climate change might impact future irrigation abstraction reliability from surface water in England. Firstly, the probability of annual abstraction being close to the maximum licence limit was estimated for the baseline (1961–1990) and future (2071–2098) periods in each catchment based on observed relationships between annual weather and irrigation abstraction in three licence usage groups. Secondly, the current river discharge triggers for mandatory drought restrictions were used to assess the annual probability of surface water abstraction restrictions being imposed by the regulator in each period. Results indicate significant future increases in irrigated abstraction licence use due to an increase in aridity, particularly in the most productive agricultural areas located in eastern and southern England, assuming no adaptation. The annual probability of having less than 20% licence headroom in the highest usage group is projected to exceed 0.7 in 45% of the management units, mostly in the south and east. In contrast, irrigators in central and western England face an increased risk of drought restrictions due to the lower buffering capacity of groundwater on river flows, with the annual probability of mandatory drought restrictions reaching up to 0.3 in the future. Our results highlight the increasing abstraction reliability risks for irrigators due to climate change, and the need for the farming community and the regulator to adapt and collaborate to mitigate the associated impacts.

Keywords: Drought; England; Resilience; Irrigated agriculture; Risk; Adaptation (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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