Climate impacts on global irrigation requirements under 19 GCMs, simulated with a vegetation and hydrology model (2013)

Konzmann, M., Gerten, D., Heinke, J. Hydrological Sciences Journal

Abstract

This study quantifies global changes in irrigation requirements for areas presently equipped for irrigation of major crop types, using climate projections from 19 GCMs up to the 2080s. Analysis is based on results from the global eco-hydrological model LPJmL that simulates the complex and dynamic interplay of direct and indirect climate change effects upon irrigation requirements. We find a decrease in global irrigation demand by ~17% in the ensemble median, due to a combination of beneficial CO2 effects on plants, shorter growing periods and regional precipitation increases. In contrast, increases of >20% are projected with a high likelihood (i.e. in more than two thirds of the climate change scenarios) for some regions, including southern Europe, and, with a lower likelihood, for parts of Asia and North America as well. If CO2 effects were not accounted for, however, global irrigation demand would hardly change, and increases would prevail in most regions except for southern Asia (where higher precipitation is projected). We stress that the CO2 effects may not be realized everywhere, that irrigation requirements will probably increase further due to growing global food demand (not considered here), and that a significant amount of water to meet future irrigation requirements will have to be taken from fossil groundwater, environmental flow reserves or diverted rivers.

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Citation

Konzmann, M., Gerten, D., Heinke, J., 2013. Climate impacts on global irrigation requirements under 19 GCMs, simulated with a vegetation and hydrology model. Hydrol. Sci. J. 58, 88–105. https://doi.org/10.1080/02626667.2013.746495

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  • Water use
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