Building a climate resilient farm: A risk based approach for understanding water, energy and emissions in irrigated agriculture
The links between water application, energy consumption and emissions are complex in irrigated agriculture. There is a need to ensure that water and energy use is closely considered in future industry planning and development to provide practical options for adaptation and to build resilience at the farm level. There is currently limited data available regarding the uncertainty and sensitivity associated with water application and energy consumption in irrigated crop production in Australia. This paper examines water application and energy consumption relationships for different irrigation systems, and the ways in which the uncertainty of different parameters impacts on these relationships and associated emissions for actual farms. This analysis was undertaken by examining the current water and energy patterns of crop production at actual farms in two irrigated areas of Australia (one using surface water and the other groundwater), and then modelling the risk/uncertainty and sensitivity associated with the link between water and energy consumption at the farm scale. Results showed that conversions from gravity to pressurised irrigation methods reduced water application, but there was a simultaneous increase in energy consumption in surface irrigation areas. In groundwater irrigated areas, the opposite is true; the use of pressurised irrigation methods can reduce water application and energy consumption by enhancing water use efficiency. Risk and uncertainty analysis quantified the range of water and energy use that might be expected for a given irrigation method for each farm. Sensitivity analysis revealed the contribution of climatic (evapotranspiration and rainfall) and technical factors (irrigation system efficiency, pump efficiency, suction and discharge head) impacting the uncertainty and the model output and water-energy system performance in general. Flood irrigation systems were generally associated with greater uncertainty than pressurised systems. To enhance resilience at the farm level, the optimum situation envisaged an irrigation system that minimises water and energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Where surface water is used, well designed and managed flood irrigation systems will minimise the operating energy and carbon equivalent emissions. Where groundwater is the dominant use, the optimum system is a well designed and managed pressurised system operating at the lowest discharge pressure possible that will still allow for efficient irrigation. The findings might be useful for farm level risk mitigation strategies in surface and groundwater systems, and for aiding adaptation to climate change.
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