Water stress index and its implication for agricultural land-use policy in Thailand

  • S. H. Gheewala
  • T. Silalertruksa
  • P. Nilsalab
  • N. Lecksiwilai
  • W. Sawaengsak
  • R. Mungkung
  • J. Ganasut
Original Paper


Land-use change and expansion for agriculture significantly affect freshwater resource availability which in turn results in different levels of water scarcity and competition among users in different areas and time. The study uses the water stress index as an indicator for determining the potential impact of water use considering water deprivation potential. Considering the case of Thailand, the temporal aspects of water withdrawal and availability have been analyzed and characterized as the monthly water stress index for the 25 watersheds in the country. Wide variations of monthly water stress index are obtained; extreme water stress is observed in the areas of the Chao Phraya and Tha Chin watersheds (the central region) during the dry season because of the large areas cultivating second rice (rice planted in dry season). The target of the Thai government on agricultural land-use change and zoning toward the conversion of about 0.37 M·ha of the upland paddy fields with low productivity to sugarcane was evaluated showing serious implications on the monthly water stress index of the relevant watersheds and the water scarcity footprint potentials of rice and sugarcane production. The results reveal that proper policy can help reduce the amount of water requirement for agriculture in June, July, August and September by about 60–220 M·m3, which in turn results in the decrease in monthly water stress index values. Nevertheless, appropriate measures of water resource management for agriculture still need to be designed to avoid water competition as well as protect the ecosystem.


Freshwater resource Water stress index Land-use change Rice Sugarcane Thailand 



This research was financially supported by the Thailand Research Fund in the years 2013–2015 as a research project (Grant No. RDG5620052).


  1. Allen RG, Pereira LS, Raes D, Smith M (1998) Crop evapotranspiration: guidelines for computing crop water requirements. FAO drainage and irrigation Paper 56. Food and Agriculture Organization, RomeGoogle Scholar
  2. Baloch MA, Ames DP, Tanik A (2015) Hydrologic impacts of climate and land-use change on Namnam Stream in Koycegiz Watershed, Turkey. Int J Environ Sci Technol 12(5):1481–1494CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Boulay AM (2012) Water footprinting: where are we now? WATER in LCA: which assessment techniques are emerging or ready? including lots of challenging aspects. 50th LCA Discussion Forum, ETH Zurich, SwitzerlandGoogle Scholar
  4. Boulay AM, Bare J, Benini L, Berger M, Klemmayer I, Lathuilliere M, Loubet P, Manzardo A, Margni M, Nunez M, Ridoutt B, Worbe S, Pfister S (2014) Building consensus on a generic water scarcity indicator for LCA-based water footprint: preliminary results from WULCA. 9th international conference LCA of Food San Francisco, USA, 8–10 OctGoogle Scholar
  5. Brown A, Matlock MD (2011) A review of water scarcity indices and methodologies [White paper]. The sustainability consortium. Accessed 15 May 2014
  6. Bureau of Research, Development and Hydrology (2009) Standard map of watershed and sub-watershed classification in Thailand referenced topography map 1:50,000, map series L7018, WGS84, UTM Zone 47N [in Thai], Department of Water ResourcesGoogle Scholar
  7. Cai B, Zhang B, Bi J, Zhang W (2014) Energy’s thirst for water in China. Int J Environ Sci Technol 48(20):11760–11768Google Scholar
  8. Chantapong S, Amarase N, Wangvanitchaphan S, Mahapornprachak T, Jedsada-attapul P (2015) What stalled Thailand’s structural transformation and way forward?: a labour market perspective. Bank of Thailand’s research program on Thailand’s future growth. Accessed 13 Feb 2017
  9. De Boer IJM, Hoving IE, Vellinga TV, Van de Ven GWJ, Leffelaar PA, Gerber PJ (2013) Assessing environmental impacts associated with freshwater consumption along the life cycle of animal products: the case of Dutch mill production in Noord-Brabant. Int J Life Cycle Assess 18:193–203CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. DWR (2008) Chapter 2: situation and development of water resources. Strategic plan of Department of Water Resources.…/0005133_1.doc. Accessed 22 Oct 2013
  11. FAO (2010) CROPWAT 8.0 model. Food and Agriculture Organization of The United Nations, Rome, ItalyGoogle Scholar
  12. Feng K, Hubacek K, Pfister S, Yu Y, Sun L (2014) Virtual scarce water in China. Int J Environ Sci Technol 48(14):7704–7713Google Scholar
  13. Gheewala SH, Berndes G, Jewitt G (2011) The bioenergy and water nexus. Biofuels Bioprod Biorefin 5(4):353–360CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gheewala SH, Silalertusksa T, Nilsalab P, Mungkung R, Perret SR, Chaiyawannakarn N (2013) Implications of the biofuels policy mandate in Thailand on water: the case of bioethanol. Biores Technol 150:457–465CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gheewala SH, Silalertusksa T, Nilsalab P, Mungkung R, Perret SR, Chaiyawannakarn N (2014) Water footprint and impact of water consumption for food, feed, fuel crops production in Thailand. Water 6:1698–1718CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. HAII (2010) Concepts of the study and assessment on water requirement [in Thai]. Hydro and Agro Informatics Institute. [Online]. Accessed 17 Oct 2012
  17. Hester ET, Little JC (2013) Measuring environmental sustainability of water in watersheds. Int J Environ Sci Technol 47(15):8083–8090Google Scholar
  18. Hoekstra AY, Chapagain AK, Aldaya MM, Mekonnen MM (2009) Water footprint manual: state of the art 2009. Water Footprint Network, Enschede, The NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  19. Hospido A, Nunez M, Anton A (2013) Irrigation mix: how to include water sources when assessing freshwater consumption impacts associated to crops. Int J Life Cycle Assess 18(4):881–890CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Jefferies D, Muñoz I, Hodges J, King VJ, Aldaya M, Ercin AE, Milà i Canals L, Hoekstra AY (2012) Water footprint and life cycle assessment as approaches to assess potential impacts of products on water consumption. Key learning points from pilot studies on tea and margarine. J Clean Prod 33:155–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. LDD (2013) Potential areas for substituting low productivity paddy field by sugarcane. The Land Development Department, BangkokGoogle Scholar
  22. Lovarelli D, Bacenetti J, Fiala M (2016) Water footprint of crop productions: a review. Sci Total Environ. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.01.022 Google Scholar
  23. Mekonnen MM, Hoekstra AY (2011) The green, blue and grey water footprint of crops and derived crop products. Hydrol Earth Syst Sci 15(5):1577–1600CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Meneses BM, Reis R, Vale MJ, Saraiva R (2015) Land use and land cover changes in Zêzere watershed (Portugal)—water quality implications. Sci Total Environ. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.04.092 Google Scholar
  25. Milà i Canals L, Chenoweth J, Chapagain A, Orr S, Antón A, Clift R (2009) Assessing freshwater use impacts in LCA: part I e inventory modeling and characterization factors for the main impact pathways. Int J Life Cycle Assess 14(1):28–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Nilsalab P, Gheewala SH, Mungkung R, Perret SR, Silalertusksa T, Bonnet S (2016) Water demand and stress from oil palm-based biodiesel production in Thailand. Int J Life Cycle Assess. doi: 10.1007/s11367-016-1213-7 Google Scholar
  27. Núñez M, Pfister S, Anton A, Munoz P, Hellweg S, Koehler A, Rieradevall J (2012) Assessing the environmental impact of water consumption by energy crops grown in Spain. J Ind Ecol 17(1):90–102CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. OAE (2011) Agricultural statistics of Thailand 2011. Office of Agricultural Economics, BangkokGoogle Scholar
  29. OAE (2014) Agricultural statistics of Thailand 2014. Office of Agricultural Economics, BangkokGoogle Scholar
  30. Page G, Ridoutt BG, Bellotti B (2011) Fresh tomato production for the Sydney market: an evaluation of options to reduce freshwater scarcity from agricultural water use. Agric Water Manag 100(1):18–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Page G, Ridoutt BG, Bellotti B (2012) Carbon and water footprint tradeoffs in fresh tomato production. J Clean Prod 32:219–226CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Pfister S, Bayer P (2013) Monthly water stress: spatially and temporally explicit consumptive water footprint of global crop production. J Clean Prod 73:52–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Pfister S, Koehler A, Hellweg S (2009) Assessing the environmental impacts of freshwater consumption in LCA. Int J Environ Sci Technol 43(11):4098–4104Google Scholar
  34. Pfister S, Bayer P, Koehler A, Hellweg S (2011a) Projected water consumption in future global agriculture. Scenarios and related impacts. Sci Total Environ 409:4206–4216CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Pfister S, Bayer P, Koehler A, Hellweg S (2011b) Environmental impacts of water use in global crop production: hotspots and trade-offs with land use. Int J Environ Sci Technol 45(13):5761–5768Google Scholar
  36. Pfister S, Bare J, Benini L, Berger M, Bulle C, Lathuilliere M, Manzardo A, Margni M, Motoshita M, Nunez M, Pastor A, Ridoutt BG, Worbe S, Boulay AM (2015) Outcome of WULCA harmonization activities: recommended characterization factors for water footprinting. International conference on Life Cycle Assessment as reference methodology for assessing supply chains and supporting global sustainability challenges, LCA for “Feeding the planet and energy for life”, Stresa, Italy, Oct 7Google Scholar
  37. Quinteiro P, Cláudia Dias A, Pina L, Neto B, Ridoutt BG, Arroja L (2014) Addressing the freshwater use of a Portuguese wine (‘vinho verde’) using different LCA methods. J Clean Prod 68:46–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. RID (2010) Planning on irrigation development for 25 watersheds. Office of Water Management and Hydrology, Royal Irrigation Department, BangkokGoogle Scholar
  39. RID (2011) Work manual No.8/16: assessing water consumption by sectors [in Thai]. Accessed 17 Oct 2012
  40. Ridoutt BG, Pfister S (2010) A revised approach to water footprinting to make transparent the impacts of consumption and production on global freshwater scarcity. Glob Environ Change 20:113–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Ridoutt BG, Pfister S (2013) A new water footprint calculation method integrating consumptive and degradative water use into a single stand-alone weighted indicator. Int J Life Cycle Assess 18(1):204–207CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Stoessel F, Juraske R, Pfister S, Hellweg S (2012) Life cycle inventory and carbon and water foodprint of fruits and vegetables: application to a Swiss retailer. Int J Environ Sci Technol 46(6):3253–3262Google Scholar
  43. Suttayakul P, H-Kittikun A, Suksaroj C, Mungkalasiri J, Wisansuwannakorn R, Musikavong C (2016) Water footprints of products of oil palm plantations and palm oil mills in Thailand. Sci Total Environ 542:521–529CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. TMD (2014) Mean monthly rainfall in Thailand (mm) 30 year. Thai Meteorological Department. Accessed 20 Mar 2016
  45. Uche J, Martínez-Gracia A, Carmona U (2013) Life cycle assessment of the supply and use of water in the Segura Basin. Int J Life Cycle Assess 19(3):688–704CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Uche J, Martínez-Gracia A, Círez F, Carmona U (2015) Environmental impact of water supply and water use in a Mediterranean water stressed region. J Clean Prod 88:196–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. WWDR (2012) The United Nations world water development report 4. Vol 1, Managing water under uncertainty and risk. World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP) 2012, ParisGoogle Scholar
  48. Yang Z, Mao X, Zhao X, Chen B (2012) Ecological network analysis on global virtual water trade. Int J Environ Sci Technol 46(3):1796–1803Google Scholar
  49. Zhang GP, Hoekstra AY, Mathews RE (2013) Water footprint assessment (WFA) for better water governance and sustainable development. Water Res Ind 1–2:1–6Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Islamic Azad University (IAU) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Joint Graduate School of Energy and EnvironmentKing Mongkut’s University of Technology ThonburiBangkokThailand
  2. 2.Center of Excellence on Energy Technology and EnvironmentPERDOBangkokThailand
  3. 3.Center of Excellence on Environmental Strategy for Green Business, Department of Environmental Technology and Management, Faculty of EnvironmentKasetsart UniversityBangkokThailand
  4. 4.Department of Water Resources Engineering, Faculty of EngineeringKasetsart UniversityBangkokThailand

Personalised recommendations