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Water Scarcity Alleviation Through Water Footprint Reduction in Agriculture: The Effect of Soil Mulching and Drip Irrigation

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Water Scarcity Alleviation Through Water Footprint Reduction in Agriculture: The Effect of Soil Mulching and Drip Irrigation

H Nouri et al. Sci Total Environ.

Abstract

Water scarcity has received global attention in the last decade as it challenges food security in arid and semi-arid regions, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa. This research assesses the possible alleviation of water scarcity by reducing the water footprint in crop production through the application of soil mulching and drip irrigation. The study is the first to do so at catchment scale, taking into account various crops, multi-cropping, cropping patterns, and spatial differences in climate, soil, and field management factors, using field survey and local data. The AquaCrop-OS model and the global water footprint assessment (WFA) standard were used to assess the green and blue water footprint (WF) of ten major crops in the Upper Litani Basin (ULB) in Lebanon. The blue water saving and blue water scarcity reduction under these two alternative practices were compared to the current situation. The results show that the WF of crop production is more sensitive to climate than soil type. The annual blue WF of summer crops was largest when water availability was lowest. Mulching reduced the blue WF by 3.6% and mulching combined with drip irrigation reduced it by 4.7%. The blue water saving from mulching was estimated about 6.3 million m3/y and from mulching combined with drip irrigation about 8.3 million m3/y. This is substantial but by far not sufficient to reduce the overall blue WF in summer to a sustainable level at catchment scale.

Keywords: AquaCrop-OS; Blue water saving; Blue water scarcity; Sustainable water use; Water footprint assessment; Water productivity.

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