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Implications of non-sustainable agricultural water policies for the water-food nexus in large-scale irrigation systems: A remote sensing approach

Al Zayed, Islam Sabry, Elagib, Nadir Ahmed
Advances in water resources 2017 v.110 pp. 408-422
agricultural land, energy balance, evapotranspiration, irrigation management, irrigation systems, irrigation water, models, monitoring, normalized difference vegetation index, rain, regression analysis, remote sensing, satellites, water distribution, water policy, water supply, water use efficiency, Sudan
This study proposes a novel monitoring tool based on Satellite Remote Sensing (SRS) data to examine the status of water distribution and Water Use Efficiency (WUE) under changing water policies in large-scale and complex irrigation schemes. The aim is to improve our understanding of the water-food nexus in such schemes. With a special reference to the Gezira Irrigation Scheme (GeIS) in Sudan during the period 2000–2014, the tool devised herein is well suited for cases where validation data are absent. First, it introduces an index, referred to as the Crop Water Consumption Index (CWCI), to assess the efficiency of water policies. The index is defined as the ratio of actual evapotranspiration (ETa) over agricultural areas to total ETa for the whole scheme where ETa is estimated using the Simplified Surface Energy Balance model (SSEB). Second, the tool uses integrated Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (iNDVI), as a proxy for crop productivity, and ETa to assess the WUE. Third, the tool uses SSEB ETa and NDVI in an attempt to detect wastage of water. Four key results emerged from this research as follows: 1) the WUE has not improved despite the changing agricultural and water policies, 2) the seasonal ETa can be used to detect the drier areas of GeIS, i.e. areas with poor irrigation water supply, 3) the decreasing trends of CWCI, slope of iNDVI-ETa linear regression and iNDVI are indicative of inefficient utilization of irrigation water in the scheme, and 4) it is possible to use SSEB ETa and NDVI to identify channels with spillover problems and detect wastage of rainwater that is not used as a source for irrigation. In conclusion, the innovative tool developed herein has provided important information on the efficiency of a large-scale irrigation scheme to help rationalize laborious water management processes and increase productivity.