Water Resources Management

, Volume 27, Issue 7, pp 2501–2514 | Cite as

Quantifying the Poorly Known Role of Groundwater in Agriculture: the Case of Cyprus

  • Christos ZoumidesEmail author
  • Adriana Bruggeman
  • Theodoros Zachariadis
  • Stelios Pashiardis


Agriculture in the Mediterranean region is constrained by limited water resources and in many countries irrigation demand exceeds the renewable water supply. This paper presents a comprehensive approach to (a) quantify the consumptive green (soil moisture provided by precipitation) and blue (irrigation) water use for crop production, (b) distinguish the contribution of groundwater to irrigation supply and (c) estimate groundwater over-abstraction. A spatiotemporally explicit soil water balance model, based on the FAO-56 dual crop coefficient approach, which includes the computation of evaporation losses of the different irrigation systems, was applied to the 5,760-km2 area of the Republic of Cyprus for the agro-meteorological years 1995–2009. The model uses national agricultural statistics, community-level data from the agricultural census and daily data from 34 meteorological stations and 70 precipitation gauges. Groundwater over-abstraction is quantified per groundwater body, based on the sustainable abstraction rates specified in the Cyprus River Basin Management Plan, as prepared for the EU Water Framework Directive. It was found that, on average, total agricultural water use was 506 Mm3/year, of which 62 % is attributed to green water use and 38 % to blue water use. Groundwater contributed, on average, 81 % (151 Mm3/year) to blue water use and exceeded the recommended abstraction rates by 45 % (47 Mm3/year). Even though the irrigated area decreased by 18 % during the 2008 drought year, relative to the wettest year (2003), total blue water use decreased by only 1 %. The limited surface water supply during the driest year resulted in a 37 % increase in groundwater use, relative to the wettest year, and exceeded the sustainable abstraction rate by 53 % (55 Mm3/year). Overall, the model provides objective and quantitative outcomes that can potentially contribute to the improvement of water resource management in Mediterranean environments, in the light of climate change and expected policy reforms.


Crop water use Blue water Green water Groundwater exploitation Climate variability 



The research reported was funded by the Cyprus Research Promotion Foundation under the programme “DESMI 2009-2010” (project number ΚΟΥΛΤΟΥΡΑ/ΒΕΝΣ/0609/02). We would like to thank the staff of the Cyprus Meteorological Service, Geological Survey, Department of Agriculture and Water Development Department for providing us with the necessary data for this study. The authors extend their gratitude to the editors and anonymous reviewer, for their valuable comments on the initial version of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christos Zoumides
    • 1
    Email author
  • Adriana Bruggeman
    • 2
  • Theodoros Zachariadis
    • 1
  • Stelios Pashiardis
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Environmental Science and TechnologyCyprus University of TechnologyLimassolCyprus
  2. 2.Energy, Environment and Water Research CenterThe Cyprus InstituteNicosiaCyprus
  3. 3.Cyprus Meteorological ServiceMinistry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and EnvironmentNicosiaCyprus

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