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A hydro-economic model for the assessment of climate change impacts and adaptation in irrigated agriculture

Esteve, Paloma, Varela-Ortega, Consuelo, Blanco-Gutiérrez, Irene, Downing, Thomas E.
Ecological economics 2015 v.120 pp. 49-58
European Union, basins, climate change, crop yield, environmental assessment, farmers, hydrologic models, irrigated farming, irrigation systems, irrigation water, risk, socioeconomics, water policy, water use efficiency, Spain
Recent research has demonstrated the multidimensional and multi-scalar nature of climate change, evidencing the need to develop integrated tools for the analysis of impacts and adaptation. This research presents a hydro-economic model of the Middle-Guadiana basin, Spain, to assess potential effects of climate change on irrigated agriculture and options for adaptation. It combines a farm-based economic optimisation model with the hydrologic model WEAP, and represents the socio-economic, agronomic and hydrologic systems in a spatially-explicit manner covering all dimensions and scales relevant to climate change. Simulated scenarios include a severe A2 climate change scenario up to 2070, two policy-based adaptation scenarios, and autonomous adaptation. Results show that climate change may impact severely irrigation systems reducing water availability and crop yields, and increasing irrigation water requirements. The risk faced by farmers is determined by technology and water use efficiency but also by spatial location and decisions made in neighbouring irrigation areas. The analysis of adaptation strategies underscores the role of current EU water policy in facilitating adaptation. Overall, the applied framework proved to be a useful tool for supporting water and climate change policy-making. It contributes to improve understanding about potential impacts of climate change, multi-scale vulnerability and the scope for adaptation.