Reconfiguring an Irrigation Landscape to Improve Provision of Ecosystem Services
Over-allocation of fresh water resources to consumptive uses, coupled with recurring drought and the prospect of climate change, is compromising the stocks of natural capital in the world’s basins and reducing their ability to provide ecosystem services. To combat this, governments world wide are making significant investment in efforts to improve sharing of water between consumptive uses and the environment, with many investments centred on modernisation of inefficient irrigation delivery systems, and the purchase of water by government for environmental flows. In this study, spatial targeting was applied within a cost-benefit framework to reconfigure agricultural land use in an irrigation district to achieve a 20% reduction in agricultural water use to increase environmental flows and improve the provision of other ecosystem services. We demonstrate using spatial planning and optimisation models that a targeted land use reconfiguration policy approach could potentially increase the net present value of ecosystem services by up to AUS$463.7m. This provides a threshold level of investment that would be justified on the basis of benefits that the investment produces. The increase in ecosystem services include recovering 61 GL of water for environmental flows, the sequestration of 10.6m tonnes of CO2-e/yr, a 13 EC (?S/cm) reduction in river salinity, and an overall 24% increase in the value of agriculture. Without a targeted approach to planning, a 20% reduction in water for irrigation could result in the loss of AUS$68.7m in economic returns to agriculture which may be only marginally offset by the increased value of ecosystem services resulting from the return of 61 GL of water to the environment.
|Date of creation:||May 2009|
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