Environmental Geology

, Volume 51, Issue 7, pp 1213–1220 | Cite as

Drought as an agri-environmental determinant of irrigation land: the case of Bardenas (Spain)

  • J. CausapéEmail author
  • I. Clavería
Original Article


Irrigated agriculture is causing certain deterioration of the quality of rivers and aquifers. The objective of this study is to analyse the agri-environmental repercussions caused by climatic changes in a typical irrigated land in the Ebro valley (Spain). The irrigation efficiency and agri-environmental impact in a basin of irrigated land (95 ha) were compared for two hydrological years with different pluviometry [October 2000/September 2001 (526 mm/year) vs. October 2004/September 2005 (211 mm/year)]. For this end, water balances were carried out in every plot and the quantity and quality (salinity and nitrates) of the water circulating through the drainage of the basin were gauged. The results indicate that in 2004/2005 farmers adjusted the irrigation doses better on each irrigation occasion, thus diminishing the fraction of drainage of the same (50% vs. 31%) and increasing the consumptive water use efficiency (56% vs. 79%). Nevertheless, the drought of 2004/2005 determined inappropriate irrigation management as the crops suffered a greater hydric deficit (3% vs. 23%). In 2004/2005, drainage waters presented higher electric conductivity (0.92 dS/m vs. 0.94 dS/m) and smaller nitrate concentration (96 mg/l vs. 74 mg/l). Last year, 55, 54 and 65% less of water, salts and N–NO 3 , respectively, were exported in the drainage. The lesser environmental impact in the year 2004/2005 was influenced by more appropriate use of water and agrichemical resources. Nevertheless, it is necessary to continue optimizing agricultural practices, mainly irrigation and fertilization, in order to minimize nitrate pollution and to confront years of drought.


Water Irrigation Fertilization Pollution Salt Nitrate 



This work was made possible thanks to the grant from the Government of Aragon for the execution of training activities and the transfer of agrarian technology, and to the collaboration of the Irrigation District no. V of Bardenas and its farmers.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Unidad de Suelos y RiegosCentro de Investigación y Tecnología Agroalimentaria de Aragón (CITA-DGA), Apdo. 727ZaragozaSpain

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