Irrigation is widely criticised as a profligate and wasteful user of water, especially in watershort areas. Improvements to irrigation management are proposed as a way of increasing agricultural production and reducing the demand for water. The terminology for this debate is often flawed, failing to clarify the actual disposition of water used in irrigation into evaporation, transpiration, and return flows that may, depending on local conditions, be recoverable. Once the various flows are properly identified, the existing literature suggests that the scope for saving consumptive use of water through advanced irrigation technologies is often limited. Further, the interactions between evaporation and transpiration, and transpiration and crop yield are, once reasonable levels of agricultural practices are in place, largely linear—so that increases in yield are directly and linearly correlated with increases in the consumption of water. Opportunities to improve the performance of irrigation systems undoubtedly exist, but are increasingly difficult to achieve, and rarely of the magnitude suggested in popular debate.


Bioresource and Agricultural Engineering



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