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Climate change impacts on irrigation water requirements in the Guadalquivir river basin in Spain


Irrigated production in the Guadalquivir river basin in Spain has grown significantly over the last decade. As a consequence, water resources are under severe pressure, with an increasing deficit between available supplies and water demand. To conserve supplies, the water authority has reduced the volume of water assigned to each irrigation district. Major infrastructural investments have also been made to improve irrigation efficiency, including the adoption of high technology micro-irrigation systems. Within a context of increasing water scarcity, climate change threatens to exacerbate the current supply-demand imbalance. In this study, the impacts of climate change on irrigation water demand have been modelled and mapped. Using a combination of crop and geographic information systems, maps showing the predicted spatial impacts of changes in agroclimate (climate variables that determine the irrigation requirements) and irrigation need have been produced. The maps highlight a significant predicted increase in aridity and irrigation need. Modelling of irrigation water requirements shows a typical increase of between 15 and 20% in seasonal irrigation need by the 2050s, depending on location and cropping pattern, coupled with changes in seasonal timing of demand.

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The authors gratefully acknowledge IFAPA (Junta de Andalucia, Spain) for providing the fellowship to Dr. Rodriguez Diaz for postdoctoral stay at Cranfield University, UK.

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Correspondence to J. A. Rodríguez Díaz.

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Rodríguez Díaz, J.A., Weatherhead, E.K., Knox, J.W. et al. Climate change impacts on irrigation water requirements in the Guadalquivir river basin in Spain. Reg Environ Change 7, 149–159 (2007).

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  • Climate change
  • Irrigation
  • Management
  • Map
  • Spain
  • Water resources