Irrigation Science

, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 95–103 | Cite as

Mismatch between crop water requirements and irrigation in Heihe River Basin, Northwestern China

  • Minghong Tan
Original Paper


Heihe Inland River Basin is the second largest in China. Water use for agriculture in the middle section of the basin accounts for over 90% of total usage; this leads to lake shrinkage, river blanking, and desertification of the downstream basin. Crop water requirements within the Ganzhou district of the Heihe River Basin in Northwestern China were modeled using a parameter calibration of the CROPWAT model, based on household survey data on crop coefficients and water usage, taking into account effective precipitation. The results show that modeled evapotranspiration for seed maize was consistent with evapotranspiration determined from observed data based on eddy covariance, as adjusted R2 values approached 0.73 (P < 0.001). Vast differences were observed between actual irrigation and water requirements across the study area. Excessive water was used for irrigation, particularly in the case of maize, where mismatches in dates were widespread between actual irrigation and water requirements. Thus, to save water and increase yield, a set schedule for irrigation was recommended.



The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support of National Natural Science Foundation of Chin (Project number: 91325302) and Strategic Priority Research Program of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Pan-Third Pole Environment Study for a Green Silk Road (Project number: XDA20040400).


  1. Allen RG, Pereira LS, Raes D, Smith M (1998) Crop evapotranspiration—guidelines for computing crop water requirements. Rome, FAO irrigation and drainage paper no. 56.1998Google Scholar
  2. English M, Solomon K, Hoffman G (2002) A paradigm shift in irrigation management. J Irrig Drain Eng 128:267–277CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Evans RG, Sadler EJ (2008) Methods and technologies to improve efficiency of water use. Water Resour Res 44:W00E04. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Gadanakis Y, Bennett R, Park J, Areal FJ (2015) Improving productivity and water use efficiency: a case study of farms in England. Agric Water Manag 160:22–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Gao QZ, Du HL, Zu RP (2002) The balance between supply and demand of water resources and the water-saving potential for agriculture in the Hexi corridor. Chin Geogr Sci 12(1):23–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Ghahraman B, Sepaskhah AR (1997) Use of a water deficit sensitivity index for partial irrigation scheduling of wheat and barley. Irrigation Sci 18:11–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Hamdy A, Ragab R, Scarascia-Mugnozza E (2003) Coping with water scarcity: water saving and increasing water productivity. Irrig Drain 52:3–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Huang Q, Wang J, Li Y (2017) Do water saving technologies savewater? Empirical evidence from North China. J Environ Econ Manag 82:1–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Jarchow CJ, Nagler PL, Glenn EP, Ramírez-Hernandez J et al (2016) Evapotranspiration by remote sensing: an analysis of the Colorado River Delta before and after the Minute 319 pulse flow to Mexico. Ecol Eng. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Karandish F, Šimůnek J (2016) A field-modeling study for assessing temporal variations of soil-water-crop interactions under water-saving irrigation strategies. Agric Water Manag 178:291–303CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Land and Water Development Division of Food and Agriculture Organization (LWD-FAO) (2009) CROPWAT model. Accessed 2008
  12. Li S, Zhao W (2010) Satellite-based actual evapotranspiration estimation in the middle reach of the Heihe River Basin using the SEBAL method. Hydrol Process 24:3337–3344CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Li X, Lu L, Yang W, Cheng G (2012) Estimation of evapotranspiration in an arid region by remote sensing—a case study in the middle reaches of the Heihe River Basin. Int J Appl Earth Observ Geoinf 17:85–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Li X, Chen G, Liu S, Xiao Q, Ma M, Jin R, Che T, Liu Q (2013) Heihe watershed allied telemetry experimental research (HIWATER). BAMS 94(8):1145–1160CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Li J, Zhu T, Mao X, Adeloye AJ (2016a) Modeling crop water consumption and water productivity in the middle reaches of Heihe River Basin. Comput Electron Agric 123:242–255CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Li S, Kang S, Zhang L, Zhang J, Du T, Tong L, Ding R (2016b) Evaluation of six potential evapotranspiration models for estimating crop potential and actual evapotranspiration in arid regions. J Hydrol Reg Stud. (in press) CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Li J, Mao X, Li M (2017) Modeling hydrological processes in oasis of Heihe River Basin by landscape unit-based conceptual models integrated with FEFLOW and GIS. Agric Water Manag 179:338–351CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Luo X, Wang K, Jiang H, Sun J, Zhu Q (2012) Estimation of land surface evapotranspiration over the Heihe River basin based on the revised three-temperature model. Hydrol Process 26:1263–1269CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Luo K, Tao F, Deng X, Moiwo JP (2017) Changes in potential evapotranspiration and surface runoff in 1981–2010 and the driving factors in Upper Heihe River Basin in Northwest China. Hydrol Process 31:90–103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Mahan JR, Young AW, Payton P (2012) Deficit irrigation in a production setting: canopy temperature as an adjunct to ET estimates. Irrig Sci 30:127–137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Masafu CK, Trigg MA, Carter R, Howdend NJK (2016) Water availability and agricultural demand: an assessment framework using global datasets in a data scarce catchment, Rokel-Seli River, Sierra Leone. J Hydrol Reg Stud 8:222–234CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Montoro AM, Lo´pez-Fuster P, Fereres (2011) Improving on-farm water management through an irrigation scheduling service. Irrig Sci 29:311–319CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Shao Y, Xie Y, Wang C, Yue J, Yao Y, Li X, Liu W, Zhu Y, Guo T (2016) Effects of different soil conservation tillage approaches on soil nutrients, water use and wheat-maize yield in rainfed dry-land regions of North China. Europ. J Agron 81:37–45Google Scholar
  24. Shi TT, Guan DX, Wu JB, Wang AZ, Jin CJ, Han SJ (2008) Comparison of methods for estimating evapotranspiration rate of dry forest canopy: eddy covariance, Bowen ratio energy balance, and Penman–Monteith equation. J Geophys Res Atmos. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Shi M, Wang L, Wagn X (2011) A study on changes and driving factors of agricultural water supply and demand in Zhangye after water reallocation of the Heihe River. Resour Sci 33(8):1489–1497Google Scholar
  26. Stockle CO, James LG (1989) Analysis of deficit irrigation strategies for maize using crop growth simulation. Irrig Sci 10:85–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Tanji KK, Kielen NC (2002) Agricultural drainage water management in arid and semi-arid areas. FAO Irrigation Drainage Paper 61: 1–205Google Scholar
  28. Uddin J, Hancock NH, Smith RJ, Foley JP (2013) Measurement of evapotranspiration during sprinkler irrigation using a precision energy budget (Bowen ratio, eddy covariance) methodology. Agric Water Manag 116:89–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Wang G, Cheng G, Xu Z (1999) The utilization of water resource and its influence on eco-environment in the northwest arid area of China. J Nat Resour 14(2):109–116Google Scholar
  30. Wang JF, Cheng GD, Gao YG, Long AH, Xu ZM, Li X, Chen H, Barker T (2008) Optimal water resource allocation in arid and semi-arid areas. Water Resour Manag 22:239–258CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Wang G, Chen J, Wu F, Li Z (2015) An integrated analysis of agricultural water-use efficiency: a case study in the Heihe River Basin in Northwest China. Phys Chem Earth 89–90:3–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Wolf A, Saliendr N, Akshalov K, Johnson DA, Laca E (2008) Effects of different eddy covariance correction schemes on energy balance closure and comparisons with the modified Bowen ratio system. Agric For Meteorol 148(6–7):942–952CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Wu J, Ding Y, Wang G, Yamazaki Y, Kubota J (2007) Evapotranspiration of seed maize field in arid region. J Irrig Drain 26(1):14–17Google Scholar
  34. Wu X, Zhou J, Wang H, Li Y, Zhong B (2015) Evaluation of irrigation water use efficiency using remote sensing in the middle reach of the Heihe river, in the semi-arid Northwestern China. Hydrol Process 29:2243–2257CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Xia J, Ning L, Wang Q, Chen J, Wan L, Hong S (2016) Vulnerability of and risk to water resources in arid and semi-arid regions of West China under a scenario of climate change. Clim Change. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Xu ZW, Liu SM, Li X, Shi S, et (2013) Intercomparison of surface energy flux measurement systems used during the HiWATER-MUSOEXE. J Geophys Res Atmos 118(23):13140–13157CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Yan H, Zhan J, Yang H, Zhang F, Wang G, He W (2016) Long time-series spatiotemporal variations of NPP and water use efficiency in the lower Heihe River Basin with serious water scarcity. Phys Chem Earth. 96:41–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Yang H, Zhang X, Zehnder AJB (2003) Water scarcity, pricing mechanism and institutional reform in northern China irrigated agriculture. Agric Water Manag 61(2):143–161CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Zeng Y, Xie Z, Yu Y, Liu SB (2016) Effects of anthropogenic water regulation and groundwater lateral flow on land processes. J Adv Model Earth Syst 8:1106–1131. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Zhang A, Zheng C, Wang S, Yao Y (2015) Analysis of streamflow variations in the Heihe River Basin, northwest China: Trends, abrupt changes, driving factors and ecological influences. J Hydrol Reg Stud 3:106–124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Zhangye’s Statistical Bureau (2013) Zhangye’s statistical yearbook in 2012. Zhangye’s Statistical Bureau, ZhangyeGoogle Scholar
  42. Zhangye’s Statistical Bureau (2015) Zhangye’s Statistical Yearbook in 2015. Zhangye’s Statistical Bureau, ZhangyeGoogle Scholar
  43. Zhao L, Gu X (2010) Quantification of transpiration and evaporation over agricultural field Using the FAO-56 dual crop coefficient approach—a case study of the maize field in an oasis in the middlestream of the Heihe River Basin in northwest China. Sci Agric Sin 43(19):4013–4026Google Scholar
  44. Zhao W, Liu B, Zhang Z (2010) Water requirements of maize in the middle Heihe River basin, China. Agric Water Manag 97:215–223CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Zheng X, Zhu JJ, Yan QL, Song LN (2012) Effects of land use changes on the groundwater table and the decline of Pinus sylvestris var. mongolica plantations in southern Horqin Sandy Land, Northeast China. Agric Water Manag 109:94–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Zhou Q, Wu F, Zhang Q (2015) Is irrigation water price an effective leverage for water management? An empirical study in the middle reaches of the Heihe River basin. Phys Chem Earth 89–90:25–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Land Surface Pattern and Simulation, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research (IGSNRR)Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS)BeijingChina
  2. 2.International CollegeUniversity of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

Personalised recommendations