Sustainable water management in agricultural areas

Agriculture in the 21st century has been challenging the need of increasing production to supply food of a growing world population, in a context of climate change and increased pressure on resources, particularly water resources. Within a territory, the agricultural and hydrological systems are in strong interaction and co-evolve. On the one hand, agricultural production is dependent on water availability. On the other hand, agricultural activities can exert significant pressure on water resources through withdrawals, particularly for irrigation. The use of agricultural inputs (pesticides, fertilizers) or unconventional water (treated wastewater, brackish water, etc.) also poses health and environmental risks to aquatic ecosystems. Finally, the agricultural use of water comes into conflict with ecological, industrial or domestic uses in certain territories.
In this context, agroecology is promoted worldwide to contribute to food production and security, and also to preserve or restore natural resources, such as water, and ecosystems, including aquatic ecosystems. Agroecology takes advantage inter alia of diversities, plant or crop diversities and diversities of knowledge for example. It is based on a detailed knowledge of each context, and in particular of the hydrological processes and fluxes of catchment.
Along with agroecology, the emergence of the water-food-energy (WEF) nexus over the last ten years recognizes the strong interactions of these three components and the need to develop integrated approaches involving the agricultural, water management and energy sectors. The territory is then considered as a level of biophysical, social and economic organization to operate management strategy. The nexus is particularly used to reformulate and even rethink problems and solutions for the management of irrigated agriculture, which increases yields, withdrawals large volumes of water and consumes electrical energy to power the pumping and water distribution systems
In this session, we invite contributions on the following topics:
• understanding, evaluating and increasing water use efficiency at the catchment scale in a context of climate change. In this regard, the interest and the role of agroecological solutions, such as the reasoning of the choice of crops, the spatial organization of cropping systems, or water conservation practices (tillage, bench) have to be considered, along with the added value of climate services;
• understanding the interactions between biogeochemical cycles, agriculture and water resources in order to identify agroecological solutions maintaining agricultural production and preserving water resource and aquatic environment;
• identifying and evaluating, particularly in relation to the wef nexus and climate, the interest of alternative water resources (treated wastewater, brackish water, etc.) or in terms of water storage or supply infrastructure (water reservoirs, small channels, etc.);
• how to accompany the agro-ecological transition, particularly in terms of decisions and changes impacting water resources (choice and spatial organization of cropping systems, choice of infrastructure and type of water for irrigation, landscaping, etc.)?
• studying the conflicts of uses, between agricultural water uses and other uses, within the territories and investigating the knowledge and cultural gaps that avoid the transitioning to fair and sustainable allocation of water resources among competing sectors following a WEF nexus approach. What are the origins of these conflicts? How can they be arbitrated? Which are the major barriers (technological, social, cultural, economic, etc.) that avoid the embracing of the multiple benefits of WEF nexus strategies;
• investigating the role of citizen and stakeholder engagement in support of agroecological sustainability and in promoting mutual trust among the multiple actors that govern water and natural resource management strategies in agricultural areas. Which are the value and trade-offs characterizing the implementation of participatory approaches and citizen science for sustainable water management in agricultural areas?

Convener: Jérôme Molénat | Co-Conveners: Delphine Leenhardt, Rim Zitouna Chebbi, Fernando Nardi, Christophe Cudennec
| Wed, 01 Jun, 08:30–15:00|Room Rondelet 1
| Attendance Wed, 01 Jun, 15:00–16:30|Poster area

Orals: Wed, 01 Jun | Room Rondelet 1

Chairpersons: Jérôme Molénat, Christophe Cudennec
Improving agricultural water uses and management from plot to catchment
Bruce Lankford and Stu Orr

The paper seeks to gain greater water literacy and numeracy in the connections between water and Regenerative Agriculture (RA). By identifying the many roles and quantities of water and soil-water, our paper argues that water is the Achilles Heel of RA.  At a basic level, RA is failing to fully appreciate and incorporate the many varied inputs, processes and outcomes of water. In ‘outcome’ terms, RA intends to improve soil-water properties and catchment hydrology so that, for example, rainfall seeps into soils rather than running off land surfaces.  In ‘process’ terms, RA adopts agricultural practices such as maintaining a protective cover that aims to enhance soil physical fertility (such as bulk density) and soil-water properties such as infiltration and available water holding capacity.  While these outcomes and processes are idealized and laudable, they miss the many ways in which water and RA intersect. For example water and hydrology are not only affected by RA, but water is also an input to RA. The latter is necessary when soil moisture is required to bolster soil organic accumulation and biological activity.  Accordingly, we find two interconnected fault lines. First, the descriptive and quantified roles of soil-water and water in RA are often missing or poorly explained, and secondly, narrative tropes and terms (e.g. ‘net zero’ or ‘net positive’ water) for describing the benefits and aims of RA are, at best, lacking context or, at worst, are misleading and incorrect. We conclude that scientists and decisions-makers should more thoroughly interrogate how RA is being applied in the context of basin water availability and attempt to bring more precision in regards to quantities of water required – and recognize the competition for those resources as well as opportunity costs. How those quantities overlap with local policies, allocations and hydrology, including farmers’ individual views and policy choices, are critical to RA success. 

How to cite: Lankford, B. and Orr, S.: Is Water the Achilles Heel of Regenerative Agriculture?  A critical examination of the roles and omissions of soil-water and water in ‘Regen Ag’, IAHS-AISH Scientific Assembly 2022, Montpellier, France, 29 May–3 Jun 2022, IAHS2022-510, 2022.

Mykhailo Romashchenko, Vsevolod Bohaienko, Tetiana Matiash, Andrii Shatkovskyi, Serhii Kolomiets, and Iuliia Danylenko

Climate change manifested in Ukraine by rapid (over 0.6oC in 10 years) increase in average annual air temperature causes a progressive deterioration of natural water supply significantly increasing the need for irrigation to ensure sustainable agriculture.

"Irrigation and Drainage Strategy in Ukraine until 2030" provides for an  increase of irrigated lands area up to 1.5-1.7 million hectares and the corresponding significant increase in water consumption from the current 1.5-1.8 billion m3 to 5-6 billion m3. Given that climate change has a negative impact not only on the state of natural water supply, but also on the state of available water resources, their rational use in irrigation is an important component of sustainable water management.

Effective tools for its implementation in irrigation are decision support systems. Their usage provides a capability to achieve maximum irrigation efficiency when complying with the following provisions:

- Irrigation should maintain root layer moisture content in a narrow range of high values (from 0.8-0.85 of field capacity to field capacity);

- Tensiometric pressure should be used as a criterion of moisture content and moisture availability for plants;

- Water retention curves should be used to determine field capacity, pre-irrigation thresholds, and optimal ranges of moisture available to plants;

- Moisture transfer models for saturated-unsaturated soils stated in terms of pressure can accurately predict irrigation schedules and rates;

- The combined use of several methods for evapotranspiration assessment improves the accuracy of calculations;

- Remote sensing data can be used to tranfer irrigation schedules and rates predictions to the areas not covered by instrumental monitoring tools.

The application of these principles provides for

- an increase in crop yields accompanied by irrigation water volumes reduction;

- irrigation with environmentally friendly rates minimizing water losses for infiltration, and the development of flooding and secondary salinization processes.

The introduction of these principles in practice will increase the sustainability of water management in agriculture in the conditions of climate change, and the use of decision support systems at full scale will ensure the maximal materialization of the potential of crops’ varieties and hybrids.

How to cite: Romashchenko, M., Bohaienko, V., Matiash, T., Shatkovskyi, A., Kolomiets, S., and Danylenko, I.: Conceptual principles of water resources management in irrigated agriculture, IAHS-AISH Scientific Assembly 2022, Montpellier, France, 29 May–3 Jun 2022, IAHS2022-551, 2022.

Pierre Laluet, Luis Enrique Olivera Guerra, Victor Altés Gaspar, Vincent Rivalland, Vincent Simonneaux, Vincent Bustillo, Joaquim Bellvert, Josep Maria Villar, and Olivier Merlin

Drainage is the water flowing under the roots when the soil's capacity to hold water is exceeded. It is an important term of the crop water budget, controlling soil salinization, potentially impacting downstream ecosystems, and being a strong indicator of water productivity. Estimating this flux at spatial scales relevant to farmers (plot-scale) and to watershed or irrigation district managers (sub-basin-scale) is thus fundamental for a sustainable management of water, soils, and downstream rivers. However, even though it can be measured or estimated locally with lysimeters or physically-based models, respectively, drainage is generally neglected or considered as a residual variable in crop water balance models. Furthermore, many studies have shown the relevance of using remote sensing data to spatialize crop water fluxes. The aim of this work is thus to estimate drainage from the plot-scale to the sub-basin-scale by using a crop water balance model coupled with remote sensing observations. For this, SAMIR, a crop water balance model based on the FAO-56 method using remote sensing data to constrain the modeled vegetation and the soil water status, is used. The approach is tested over the Algerri-Balaguer irrigation district in northeastern Spain where in-situ drainage measurements are available at an integrated (sub-basin) scale. Those data were obtained from a network of drains feeding four outlets where the drainage is continuously measured. Additionally, four lysimeters were installed on two experimental fields of the area. Firstly, the drainage simulated by SAMIR and by a physically-based model (HYDRUS-1D) are compared with the lysimeters measurements. Preliminary results indicate that both models are able to reproduce the drainage amount cumulated over the season given a site-specific calibration. Secondly, the field-scale SAMIR drainage estimates are aggregated over several sub-basins and compared against the drainage measurements at the outlet of the associated sub-basins. A strategy for calibrating SAMIR at the sub-basin-scale is proposed. The obtained results provide a first assessment of the potential of using a satellite-driven crop water balance to retrieve agricultural drainage at multiple spatial scales.

How to cite: Laluet, P., Olivera Guerra, L. E., Altés Gaspar, V., Rivalland, V., Simonneaux, V., Bustillo, V., Bellvert, J., Villar, J. M., and Merlin, O.: Estimating the drainage of irrigated areas: a combined crop water balance modeling and remote sensing approach, IAHS-AISH Scientific Assembly 2022, Montpellier, France, 29 May–3 Jun 2022, IAHS2022-232, 2022.

Yassine Khardi, Guillaume Lacombe, Abdelilah Taky, Benoit Dewandel, Jean-Christophe Maréchal, Ali Hammani, and Sami Bouarfa

The oases of the pre-Saharan basin of Wadi Ferkla in southeastern Morocco receives low and erratic rainfall (average of 141 mm/year and inter-annual standard deviation of 70 mm - Ait-Bouijane rain gauge over the period 1961-2018). From the 70's, surface and groundwater are increasingly used due to the expansion of irrigation, mainly along two wadis, namely Wadis Ferkla and Satt originating in the High-Atlas and the Anti-Atlas Mountains, respectively. Their flows reach the Ferkla’s irrigated perimeters only when the volume of the flood events exceed upstream evaporation, withdrawals and riverbed's infiltration.

Nowadays, these irrigated perimeters exert significant pressure on groundwater resources, through numerous drillings equipped with pumping systems, most of them are powered by solar energy. This unsustainable situation incentivizes individual farmers to design and implement innovative technics to increase water access for their farms. For instance, the spreading of floodwaters - an ancestral and collective irrigation practice in traditional oases - is currently being adopted and adapted by individuals at the farm level. The technique consists on partially diverting flood flows into earthen basins. The stored water either infiltrates to recharge local aquifers, or is pumped for flood irrigation of date palms.

An experimental protocol was set up to characterize groundwater recharge below one of these on-farm basins equipped with a recharge well. Barometric probes were installed in the basin, in the recharge well and in neighboring boreholes to automatically monitor water table levels (10-minute-time-step). Manual measurements were performed regularly to calibrate the monitoring probes. A topographic survey of the monitoring points and of the basin aimed at deriving piezometric levels from water levels measurements and estimating the height-surface-volume curves of the basin. After 7 months of continuous monitoring, 3 flood events were recorded. The establishment of the basin water balance at a fine time-resolution allowed estimating its different components including the infiltration rate influencing groundwater recharge. An Analytical modeling of this process was developed to explore alternative design and management options of the basin. This approach aims to contribute to a broader reflection on securing water management in this fragile oasis ecosystem.