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Transformations accompanying a shift from surface to drip Irrigation in the Cànyoles Watershed, Valencia, Spain

Saioa Sese-Minguez
Water Resources Management Group, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands; saioa.sese@gmail.com

Harm Boesveld
Water Resources Management Group, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands; harm.boesveld@wur.nl

Sabina Asins-Velis
Department of Environmental Planning, Centro de Investigaciones sobre Desertificación-CIDE, Universitat de València, Valencia, Spain; sabina.asins@uv.es

Saskia van der Kooij
Water Resources Management Group, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands; saskia.vanderkooij@gmail.nl

Jerry Maroulis
Soil Physics and Land Management, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands; and International Centre for Applied Climate Science, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia; jerry.maroulis@wur.nl

ABSTRACT: Drip irrigation is widely promoted in Spain to increase agricultural production and to save water. In the Cànyoles watershed, Valencia, we analysed the consequences of change from surface irrigation to drip irrigation over the past 25 years. There were a number of transformations resulting from, or accelerated by, this change including the 1) intensification of well construction causing a redistribution in access to groundwater, water shortages and a lowering of the groundwater table; 2) expansion of irrigation into former rain-dependent uphill areas resulting in increased water use; 3) shift to higher- value monoculture fruit crops, but with associated higher crop water requirements; 4) increased electrical energy consumption and higher costs due to groundwater pumping; and 5) loss of cultural heritage as wells have replaced traditional surface irrigation infrastructure that originated in the Middle Ages. Consequently, the authors argue that transitioning from surface irrigation to drip irrigation should critically look beyond the obvious short-term benefits that are intended by the introduction of the technology, and consider possible unforeseen side effects, that may have serious long-term impacts on the environment and the community.

KEYWORDS: Drip irrigation, water saving, energy consumption, agricultural land use/expansion, cultural heritage loss, Cànyoles watershed, Spain