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Adaptive Irrigation Management in Drought Contexts: Institutional Robustness and Cooperation in the Riegos del Alto Aragon Project (Spain)

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Abstract

This chapter aims to understand the ability of more than 10,000 farmers in a large irrigation project to cooperate and adjust their water demands to cope with droughts. Causal inferences are formulated with the aid of common pool resource (CPR) theory as well as qualitative and quantitative evidence. According to the analysis, a series of robust water management institutions as well as additional land use factors contribute to the collective adaptation of farmers in drought conditions. Water management institutions include a flexible common property regime, effective environmental and social monitoring mechanisms, and decentralized administrative leadership. Land use factors include the existence of a moderate heterogeneity of farmers in their dependence from irrigated agriculture, the relatively substitutability of high and low water demand crops and a strong mechanism of government-sponsored income support subsidies. Overall, the analysis illustrates the interest of understanding adaptation from the perspective of CPR theory, as well as the usefulness of integrating the study of water and land use dynamics to understand sustainable management in the irrigation sector.

Keywords

  • Irrigation System
  • Water Allocation
  • Common Pool Resource
  • Sprinkler Irrigation
  • Water Demand Crop

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Fig. 14.1
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Fig. 14.5

Notes

  1. 1.

    Generally speaking, larger quantities of cultivated land as well higher water demand crops tend to yield higher returns. Thus, everything being equal, farmers would tend to resist reducing cultivated land or switching from high to low water demand crops during droughts. This would be aggravated by the existence of a collective action problem, as the costs of adjusting one’s water needs are private but the benefits in terms of water conservation are shared. In irrigation systems individual farmers may not have the right to exclude other regime members from the benefits of water conservation efforts, unless there are specific rules about it. In that scenario, farmers who do not bear the water conservation costs may still receive enough water and enjoy similar production yields to those who do bear the costs. This would discourage farmers from making any water conservation efforts. Individual investments in irrigation efficiency via new technologies or practices would face a similar problem.

  2. 2.

    Both main and minor canals follow the contour lines of the terrain so water can be transported and then distributed to plots by gravity. Similarly, the drainage system is located at lower elevation than the conveyance canals but still at higher elevation than the hydrological system so runoffs can flow by gravity from the plots to the drainage system and then to the hydrological system.

  3. 3.

    From 1990 to 2010, the average prices of corn and alfalfa (high water-demand crops) have been ~15.8 and ~10.8 E/100 kg respectively; and that of barley and wheat (low water-demand crops) ~13.5 and ~16.7 E/100 kg, respectively. That being, the average production of corn and alfalfa for years 1998, 2000, 2002, and 2007 was around 9,000 and 11,000 kg/ha respectively; and that of barley and wheat as around 4,000 kg/ha (Elaborated from data from Regional Government of Aragon).

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Villamayor-Tomas, S. (2014). Adaptive Irrigation Management in Drought Contexts: Institutional Robustness and Cooperation in the Riegos del Alto Aragon Project (Spain). In: Bhaduri, A., Bogardi, J., Leentvaar, J., Marx, S. (eds) The Global Water System in the Anthropocene. Springer Water. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-07548-8_14

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