Publications

Transformations accompanying a shift from surface to drip irrigation in the Cànyoles Watershed, Valencia, Spain

Sese-Minguez, Saioa; Boesveld, Harm; Asins-Velis, Sabina; Kooij, Saskia van der; Maroulis, Jerry

Summary

Drip irrigation is widely promoted in Spain to increase agricultural production and to save water. In the CĂ nyoles watershed, Valencia, we analysed the consequences of change from surface irrigation to drip irrigation over the past 25 years. There were a number of transformations resulting from, or accelerated by, this change including the 1) intensification of well construction causing a redistribution in access to groundwater, water shortages and a lowering of the groundwater table; 2) expansion of irrigation into former rain-dependent uphill areas resulting in increased water use; 3) shift to higher- value monoculture fruit crops, but with associated higher crop water requirements; 4) increased electrical energy consumption and higher costs due to groundwater pumping; and 5) loss of cultural heritage as wells have replaced traditional surface irrigation infrastructure that originated in the Middle Ages. Consequently, the authors argue that transitioning from surface irrigation to drip irrigation should critically look beyond the obvious short-term benefits that are intended by the introduction of the technology, and consider possible unforeseen side effects, that may have serious long-term impacts on the environment and the community.