Water-stressed countries need to plan their food security and reduce the pressure on their limited water resources. Agriculture, the largest water-using sector, has a major role in addressing water scarcity and food security challenges. While there has been quite some attention to water management solutions like soil mulching and improved irrigation, less attention has been paid to adapting the cropping pattern to save water. Here, we investigate how a change in which crops are grown where and when can influence the green and blue water footprint (WF) of crop production, save blue water, reduce blue water scarcity and increase both food and cash crop production, using FAO’s AquaCrop model. The performance of two potential solutions, first a strategy of mulching plus drip irrigation, and second a strategy with changing the cropping pattern in addition to mulching and drip irrigation, were compared in one of the most water-stressed catchments in the world, the Upper Litani Basin in Lebanon. Our results show a substantial potential for more efficient use of green water resources for food production while saving scarce blue water resources. Whereas mulching and drip irrigation together decrease the blue WF in the basin by 4.5%, changing the cropping pattern as well can decrease it by 20.3%. Food and cash production could increase by 3% and 50% by changing the cropping pattern, compared to 1.5% and 2.1% by mulching and drip irrigation. Changing the cropping pattern could thus significantly reduce water scarcity and enlarge food and cash production in the basin.
Nouri, H., Stokvis, B., Chavoshi Borujeni, S., Galindo, A., Brugnach, M., Blatchford, M. L., ... Hoekstra, A. Y. (2020). Reduce blue water scarcity and increase nutritional and economic water productivity through changing the cropping pattern in a catchment. Journal of hydrology, 588, 1-11. . https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2020.125086