Improving Water Productivity in Irrigated Agriculture: Challenges from Climate Change and New Water Resources Paradigms

  • José Manuel GonçalvesEmail author
  • Isabel Pedroso de Lima
Part of the Climate Change Management book series (CCM)


The increasing pressure on water resources is due to continuously growing consumption, which itself results from demographic and economic developments and the effect of expected climate change. Therefore, action to encourage the more efficient and productive use of water is urgent. Water management needs to focus on regulating the use of this limited resource by multiple users; the allocation of water to non-agricultural users, in particular, is increasing steadily. Moreover, increased variability in climate regimes is expected to modify the volume, temporal and spatial distribution of water storage and fluxes, and therefore to affect the distribution, availability and sustainability of regional water resources. Irrigated agriculture is one of the sectors also facing new challenges. Given that water scarcity is expected to worsen in large agricultural production areas, one such challenge is how to maintain or increase sustainable agricultural production under growing water use restrictions. Improvements in agricultural water management should seek to conserve not only water but energy and soil, too, while still satisfying society’s relentless demand for high quality food and fiber crops, and livestock, aquatic and forest products. This work addresses the main problems related to this topic, illustrated with case studies from Europe and Asia.


Agricultural water management Climate change Irrigation water productivity Water use indicators 



The support of FCT, Portugal, through the research unit LEAF-Linking Landscape, Environment, Agriculture and Food (UID/AGR/04129/2013), and of FCT and FEDER, through the research project HIRT—“Modelling surface hydrologic processes based on infrared thermography at local and field scales” (PTDC/ECM-HID/4259/2014–POCI-01-0145-FEDER-016668), is acknowledged.


  1. Alexandratos, N., & Bruinsma, J. (2012). World agriculture towards 2030/2050: The 2012 revision (ESA working paper No. 12-03). Rome: FAO.Google Scholar
  2. Backeberg, G. R. (2014). Innovation through research and development for irrigation water management. Irrigation and Drainage, 63, 176–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Car, N. J., Christen, E. W., Hornbuckle, J. W., & Moore, G. A. (2012). Using a mobile phone short messaging service (SMS) for irrigation scheduling in Australia farmers’ participation and utility evaluation. Computers and Electronics in Agriculture, 84, 132–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Darouich, H., Cameira, M. R., Gonçalves, J. M., Paredes, P., & Pereira, L. S. (2017). Comparing sprinkler and surface irrigation for wheat using multi-criteria analysis: Water saving vs. economic returns. Water, 9, 50. Scholar
  5. Gonçalves, J. M., & Pereira, L. S. (2009). A decision support system for surface irrigation design. Journal of Irrigation and Drainage Engineering, 135(3), 343–356.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Gonçalves, J. M., Horst, M. G., Pereira, L. S., & Muga, A. P. (2011). Furrow irrigation design with multicriteria analysis. Biosystems Engineering, 109, 266–275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Horst, M. G., Shamutalov, S. S., Gonçalves, J. M., & Pereira, L. S. (2007). Assessing impacts of surge-flow irrigation on water saving and productivity of cotton. Agricultural Water Management, 87, 115–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. IPCC (2014) In Core Writing Team, R. K. Pachauri, & L. A. Meyer (Eds.), Climate change 2014: Synthesis report. Contribution of working groups I, II and III to the fifth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change (p. 151). Geneva, Switzerland: IPCC.Google Scholar
  9. Ishizaka, A., & Nemery, P. (2013). Multi-criteria decision analysis: Methods and software. Wiley. ISBN: 978-1-1199-7407-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Lenton, R. (2014). Irrigation in the twenty-first century: Reflections on science, policy and society. Irrigation and Drainage, 63, 154–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Lovejoy, S., & de Lima, M. I. P. (2015). The joint space-time statistics of macroweather precipitation, space-time statistical factorization and macroweather models. Chaos, 25, 075410. Scholar
  12. Lovejoy, S., Del Rio Amador, L., & Hébert, R. (2017). Harnessing butterflies: Theory and practice of the stochastic seasonal to interannual prediction system (StocSIPS). In A. A. Tsonis (Ed.), Nonlinear advances in geosciences. Springer Nature (in press).Google Scholar
  13. Masseroni, D., Ricart, S., Cartagena, R. F., Monserrat, J., Gonçalves, J. M., de Lima, I., et al. (2017). Prospects for improving gravity-fed surface irrigation systems in mediterranean European contexts. Water, 9(1), 20. Scholar
  14. Molden, D., Murray-Rust, H., Sakthivadivel, R., & Makin, I. (2003). A water-productivity framework for understanding and action. In J. W. Kijne, R. Barker, & D. Moldem (Eds.), Water productivity in agriculture: Limits and opportunities for improvement. Wallingford: CAB International; Colombo: IWMI.Google Scholar
  15. Pedras, C. M. G., Pereira, L. S., & Gonçalves, J. M. (2009). MIRRIG: A decision support system for design and evaluation of microirrigation systems. Agricultural Water Management, 96(4), 691–701.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Pereira, L. S. (2011). Challenges on water resources management when searching for sustainable adaptation to climate change focusing agriculture. European Water, 34, 41–54.Google Scholar
  17. Pereira, L. S., Cordery, I., & Iacovides, I. (2009). Coping with water scarcity, addressing and challenges. Springer.Google Scholar
  18. Rinaldi, M., & He, Z. (2014). Decision support systems to manage irrigation in agriculture. Advances in Agronomy, 123, 229–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Rodrigues, G. C., Paredes, P., Gonçalves, J. M., Alves, I., & Pereira, L. S. (2013). Comparing sprinkler and drip irrigation systems for full and deficit irrigated maize using multicriteria analysis and simulation modelling: Ranking for water saving vs. farm economic returns. Agricultural Water Management, 126, 85–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Rodrigues, G.C., Sequeira, B., Paredes, P., & Pereira, L. S. (2010). PROASPER, um SAD para projeto de sistemas de rega por aspersão. In L. S. Pereira, F. R. B. Victória, P. Paredes, M. Garcia, E. Palácios, & A. Torrecillas (Eds.), Tecnologias para o Uso Sustentável da Água em Rega. Edições Colibri e CEER (pp. 15–19) (in Portuguese).Google Scholar
  21. Rosenzweig, C., & Hillel, D. (1998). Climate change and the global harvest. Potential impacts of the greenhouse effects on agriculture. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  22. UNDP. (2006). Human development report 2006. Beyond scarcity: Power, poverty and the global water crisis. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • José Manuel Gonçalves
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Isabel Pedroso de Lima
    • 3
  1. 1.College of AgriculturePolytechnic of CoimbraCoimbraPortugal
  2. 2.Centro de Investigação em Agronomia, Alimentos, Ambiente e Paisagem (LEAF), Instituto Superior de AgronomiaUniversidade de LisboaLisbonPortugal
  3. 3.Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre (MARE), Department of Civil EngineeringUniversity of CoimbraCoimbraPortugal

Personalised recommendations