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Integrated Approach for Supporting Sustainable Water Resources Management of Irrigation Based on the WEFN Framework

de Vito, Rossella, Pagano, Alessandro, Portoghese, Ivan, Giordano, Raffaele, Vurro, Michele, Fratino, Umberto
Water resources management 2019 v.33 no.4 pp. 1281-1295
case studies, energy, energy resources, irrigated farming, irrigation management, irrigation systems, models, socioeconomic development, water resources, Italy, Mediterranean region
Irrigated agriculture plays a vital role for the socio-economic development of the Mediterranean area, although it has significant impacts on both water and energy resources. Therefore, in a context in which water resources are also experiencing increasing pressures, there is an urgent need for supporting their sustainable management. This may be an extremely challenging task, especially at the local scale, due to the several interconnected dynamics affecting the state of a complex irrigation system. In fact, multiple actors are involved in decision-making processes, and the use of natural resources (and their mutual interactions) strongly depends on their behaviors, which affect the system as a whole. In this context, the present study proposes an integrated methodology, based on the Water Energy Food Nexus (WEFN), specifically focused on the sustainable management of water resources for irrigation. Firstly, a model based on Causal Loop Diagrams (CLD) is developed in order to get a deep insight into the key dynamics behind a complex irrigation system. Secondly, three indices based on the “footprint” concept are identified, in order to synthesize such dynamics. The integration of these two approaches support investigating the whole system and, particularly, understanding the influence of multiple decisional actors on it, as well as the role of a set of key drivers and constraints. This might also allow drawing some relevant conclusions, useful for supporting effective decisions oriented to a sustainable water resources management. Specific reference is made to a case study, the Capitanata irrigation system, located in the Southern Italy.