Assessing Irrigation Impact on Water Quality Conditions: A Case Study In The River Noguera Ribagorçana (Ne Spain)

27 Pages Posted: 24 Jan 2024

See all articles by Víctor Altés

Víctor Altés

University of Lleida

Miquel Pascual

University of Lleida

Maria José Escorihuela

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Josep-Maria Villar

University of Lleida

Abstract

The need to feed an increasing population while limiting the environmental impact of agriculture is currently one of the greatest challenges relating to the food chain. One of the key factors involved in doing this is irrigation, which has a downstream impact that can be minimised if nutrient and water management are efficiently undertaken. The objective of this study was to determine which irrigation management improvements can be done in modern irrigated areas to reduce its irrigation return flow impact. The study was conducted in the Noguera Ribagorçana River basin, in NE Spain, where almost 6000 hectares of land were brought into irrigation from 2000 to 2009. We based our study on a water quality dataset, measured in four different sites along a 29 km2 stretch of the river over a period of 20 years. Our results show an increase in nitrate and salt concentrations in the downstream course of the river that was exclusively associated with the irrigation return flows from the newly irrigated area. The highest nitrate and salt concentrations are found during the non-irrigation season which corresponded to the local rainy season. To reduce this impact, better irrigation management is required. Autumn leaching could be lowered by reducing doses of irrigation applied during the final weeks of crop cycles in order to allow the soil to retain the volume of water received from rainfall. In this way, the impact on ecosystems located further downstream would be reduced while crop yields and productivity in the area could be maintained.

Keywords: Irrigation, Irrigation management, Water quality, Irrigation return flows, Nitrate, land use

Suggested Citation

Altés, Víctor and Pascual, Miquel and Escorihuela, Maria José and Villar, Josep-Maria, Assessing Irrigation Impact on Water Quality Conditions: A Case Study In The River Noguera Ribagorçana (Ne Spain). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4705246 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4705246

Víctor Altés (Contact Author)

University of Lleida ( email )

Miquel Pascual

University of Lleida ( email )

Victor Siurana 1
Lleida, 25003
Spain

Maria José Escorihuela

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

No Address Available

Josep-Maria Villar

University of Lleida ( email )

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