Sustainable irrigation water management in horticultural crops in dry environments

K. Chartzoulakis
Water is considered the most critical resource for sustainable development worldwide. It is essential not only for agriculture, industry, and economic growth, but it is also the most important component of the environment, with a significant impact on health and nature conservation. Agriculture worldwide today accounts for on average more than 70% of the water used. Irrigated areas will increase in the coming years due to climate change, while fresh water supplies will be diverted from agriculture to meet the increasing demand for domestic use and industry. Furthermore, the efficiency of irrigation is very low, since less than 65% of the applied water is used by the crops. To overcome water shortage in agriculture it is essential to increase the water use efficiency and to use marginal waters (reclaimed, saline, drainage) for irrigation. The sustainable use of water is a priority for agricultural arid areas. Imbalances between availability and demand, degradation of surface and groundwater quality, inter-sectorial competition, and inter-regional conflicts often occur in these regions. So, under scarcity conditions and climate change, considerable effort has been devoted over time to introduce policies aiming to increase water efficiency based on the assertion that more can be achieved with less water through better management. Better management usually refers to the improvement of allocative and/or irrigation water efficiency. The former is closely related to adequate pricing, while the latter depends on the type of irrigation technology, environmental conditions, and the scheduling of water application. Agricultural practices, such as soil management, irrigation, and fertilizer application, and disease and pest control are related to sustainable water management in agriculture and protection of the environment. They not only provide the soil moisture and nutrients necessary for plant growth, but they also contribute to control erosion, soil and groundwater degradation. Socio-economic pressures and climate change impose restrictions on water allocated to agriculture. The adoption of sustainable water management is not only a technological problem but involves many other considerations relative to the social behavior of rural communities, the economic constraints, or the legal and institutional framework that may favor the adoption of some measures and not others. Sustainable water management in agriculture can be achieved by adopting improvements in irrigation application, soil and plant practices, water pricing, reuse of treated wastewater, farmers' participation in water management, and capacity building.
Chartzoulakis, K. (2021). Sustainable irrigation water management in horticultural crops in dry environments. Acta Hortic. 1315, 475-488
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2021.1315.71
irrigation, water efficiency, water reuse, innovation, capacity building

Acta Horticulturae