Water resources irrigation demand

Total water consumption is about 60 km3 in Hungary today. The largest part of this is evaporation and transpiration. Human water demand comprises the industrial and communal water (4.5 + 1 km3), aquaculture and irrigation need about 0.5 km3 water. Additionally, glasshouse and ornamental plant production requires 0.1-0.2 km3 of irrigation water. Unfortunately, the use of wastewater is not satisfactory and not well measured. The use of subsurface water by root systems and wells is important, but not very accurately estimated, because most wells operate without any permission.

Although it seems that Hungary has enough water for irrigation, there is a very strong competition for available water. According to the governmental regulations for dry periods, the first step is a marked reduction of irrigation water use. Water deficit plays a very important role in the biomass production (Nagy, 2007). Figure 4 shows that the water deficit and the reduction of yield have a nearly linear relationship.

The ratio of irrigated and non-irrigated agricultural productivity is at least two, but usually more. The problem is that the large variability of precipitation makes the operation of irrigation systems useless and sometimes under-designed.

Figure 4. Connection between water deficit and yield reduction of maize (Nagy, 2007) 5. Legal and administrative basis of irrigation

Water use is regulated generally by the European Union and in detail by national rules. On a national level, some regulations relate to irrigation water use, its availability, reduction in the dry periods, etc. The latest documents support irrigation. Such documents are the New Hungary Development Plan and Rural Development Plan, which has already been accepted by the European Union. It is expected that the Hungarian government will accept the National Drought Strategy and the National Climate Change Strategy this year. The last document is deeply involved with adaptation measures, among others irrigation and estimates the present adaptive capacity of the country. Agricultural adaptation is strongly connected to the water management development in Hungary (Ligetvári, 2006). Large flood protection works were begun in the 19th century with the philosophy of taking the surplus water of floods out of country as soon as possible. Due to climate change, a different philosophy is developing today: how can we keep the surplus water of the winter floods for the summer droughts? The design of large water management projects in emergency reservoirs is going on.

On the other hand, the question about the dry farming versus irrigation is still not solved. Some opinions say that agriculture has to follow the direction of climate change, and produce appropriate products in an appropriate way. This is the green direction and they suggest dry farming. The other direction suggests that irrigation be used more as an adaptation method of agriculture to climate change, keeping the economical, social and landscape benefits of present agriculture. Whatever the final answer, water-saving technologies have to be supported and distributed not only in irrigation, but in every industrial and communal activity (Camp et al., 1990).

The EU regulations provide the background for the national activities, first of all the Water Framework Directive, which makes the complex problem of irrigation economy even more sophisticated.

Continue reading here: Conclusions

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