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Reduction of Water Losses by Use of Alternative Irrigation Techniques in the Aral Sea Drainage Basin
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Physical Geography and Quaternary Geology.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Physical Geography and Quaternary Geology.
2011 (English)In: Sustainable agricultural development: Recent approaches in resources management and environmentally-balanced production enhancement / [ed] Mohamed Behnassi; Shabbir A Shahid; Joyce D'Silva, Springer Netherlands, 2011, 157-168 p.Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

The Aral Sea drainage basin (ASDB) in Central Asia is a region under severe water stress. Its population depends to a large extent economically on irrigated agriculture, which consumes over 90% of the withdrawn freshwater in the drainage basin. There is thus a strong need to increase the water productivity, i.e. the ratio between crop production and water use. We analyse impacts on water use of possible large-scale implementations of alternative irrigation techniques, replacing traditional furrow irrigation on cotton fields in the ASDB. We base our quantifications on experimental field comparisons of yield and water use between traditional furrow irrigation and alternative irrigation techniques (drip irrigation, alternate furrow irrigation, surge flow irrigation and surge flow irrigation on alternate furrows). All alternative methods, except drip irrigation, are associated with lower cotton yields than the traditional furrow irrigation. In order to keep the cotton production unchanged when yields are lower, extended irrigation areas are needed, over which non-negligible additional water volumes will be lost. We show that despite such negative feedback effects, the irrigation water use on cotton fields in the ASDB could decrease by as much as 10 km3/year, if the traditional furrow irrigation were to be replaced by one of the investigated alternative methods. Such decreases in water use can considerably influence the hydrological conditions in the entire basin. In particular, by reducing the severe water stress in the lower ASDB, which suffers from elevated groundwater tables, and high soil and groundwater salinity.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Springer Netherlands, 2011. 157-168 p.
National Category
Environmental Sciences Oceanography, Hydrology, Water Resources
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-67753DOI: 10.1007/978-94-007-0519-7_11ISBN: 978-94-007-0518-0OAI: diva2:471112
Available from: 2012-01-01 Created: 2012-01-01 Last updated: 2013-09-05Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Basin-scale change in water availability and water quality under intensified irrigated agriculture
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Basin-scale change in water availability and water quality under intensified irrigated agriculture
2013 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Changes in land use and water use can greatly impact the cycling of water and water-borne substances. Increased redistribution of river water to irrigated fields can cause enhanced evapotranspiration and decreased river discharge. Additionally, the water quality can be affected by the external input of fertilisers and pesticides, and by changed pollutant transport pathways in expansive irrigation canal systems. This thesis examines basin-scale changes in water use, river discharge, water quality and nitrogen (N) loading under conditions of intensified irrigated agriculture, using the Aral Sea drainage basin (ASDB) with its two large rivers Syr Darya and Amu Darya in Central Asia as study area. Results show that more efficient irrigation techniques could reduce outtake of river water to the cotton fields in the ASDB by about 10 km3/year, while the corresponding river water saving at the outlet would be 60% lower. The result illustrates the importance of accounting for return flows of irrigation water in basin-scale water saving assessments. Moreover, a decrease in riverine N concentrations at the outlet of the Amu Darya River Basin (ADRB) was observed during a 40-year period of increasing N fertiliser input. The decrease was identified to be primarily caused by increased recirculation of river water in the irrigation system, leading to increased flow-path lengths and enhanced N attenuation. Decreasing N loads were shown to be primarily related to reduced discharge. N export from the basin may further decrease due to projected discharge reductions related to climate change. Furthermore, nutrients and metals were occasionally found at concentrations above drinking water guideline values in surface waters in the ADRB. However, metal concentrations in groundwater in the lower ADRB were subject to orders of magnitude higher health hazards. Projected decrease in downstream surface water availability would thus imply decreased access to water suitable for drinking.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Physical Geography and Quaternary Geology, Stockholm University, 2013. 34 p.
Dissertations from the Department of Physical Geography and Quaternary Geology, ISSN 1653-7211 ; 38
Irrigation, Hydrology, Land-use change, Basin-scale, Central Asia, Aral Sea, Semi-arid, Return flow, Water saving, Health risk, Water quality, Surface water, Groundwater, Nitrogen, Attenuation, Recirculation, Climate change
National Category
Oceanography, Hydrology, Water Resources
Research subject
Physical Geography
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-93214 (URN)978-91-7447-724-5 (ISBN)
Public defence
2013-10-18, William-Olssonsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 14, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 4: Submitted. Paper 5: Manuscript.

Available from: 2013-09-26 Created: 2013-09-04 Last updated: 2013-09-25Bibliographically approved

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Törnqvist, RebeckaJarsjö, Jerker
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