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Water Use Intensity (WUI) of irrigated crops (WREI 004) - Assessment DRAFT created Oct 2013

Indicator Assessment Created 18 Sep 2013 Published 09 Oct 2013 Last modified 23 Jul 2014, 11:01 AM

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Contents
 

Indicator definition

Water use intensity of irrigated crops can be estimated by the use of the following formula:

Water Use Intensity (WUI) of irrigated crops (m3/€ PPS)

Water Use Irrigationcrop (m3) / Economic Outputcrop (€ PPS)

 

Where,

Water Use Irrigationcrop is the total water used (in m3) for the irrigation of the specific crop in the same area and for the same year (currently 2010).

Economic Outputcrop is the production value at producer price in
€ PPS* (values at current prices) of a specific irrigated crop in a specified area (NUTS 2).

*Purchasing Power Standard (PPS) is used by Eurostat as a common currency for the European region which accounts for differences in the purchasing power over the 28 Member States and other European countries included in the assessments (e.g. EFTA countries, candidate countries and potential candidates). Theoretically, one PPS can buy the same amount of goods and services in each country. The adjustment for price level differences is done using Purchasing Power Parities (PPPs). Thus, PPPs can be interpreted as the exchange rate of the PPS against the euro.

The analysis is conducted using data from the latest available year from the Eurostat Farm Structure Survey-FSS (currently 2010)[1], while the spatial scale used is the NUTS2 level[2]. In general, lower WUI values reflect more efficient use of water or, in other terms, more benefit is being generated per unit of water used for irrigation. The WUI has been calculated for selected crops irrigated in Europe, namely: cereals (excluding maize and rice), maize, sugar beets, rape and turnip rape, sunflower, potatoes and citrus.

Some other categories of crops (e.g. olives, vineyards, fruits and berries), for which data are available, were examined, but practical issues emerged and challenged the analysis. The production value of olives refers to both “table olives” and “olive oil”, yet the irrigated area data do not distinguish among categories. The same applies for the vineyards (“table grapes” vs. “wine”). In the case of fruit and berry plantations, this category represents a great variety of fruits with ranging water needs and various products. For these crops no values of WUI were calculated.



[1] Council Regulation (EEC) No 571/88 of 29 February 1988 on the organization of Community surveys on the structure of agricultural holdings (OJ L 56, 2.3.1988, p. 1); and Regulation (EC) No 1166/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 November 2008 on farm structure surveys and the survey on agricultural production methods and repealing Council. Regulation (EEC) No 571/88. For more information consult section 4 – Data Sources.

[2] The data currently used also refer to the year 2010 and were sourced from Eurostat economic accounts for agriculture – regional agricultural statistics. For more information consult section 4 – Data Sources.

Units

[m3 / € PPS]


Key policy question: When looking at irrigated agriculture in Europe, what is the water use per unit benefit (expressed in economic terms)?

Key messages

 

A broad range in water productivity values is observed for the main irrigated crops in Europe, which is caused by the many interplaying factors in the soil-crop-water patterns. This variability is mainly ascribed to the climate, irrigation water management, and soil (fertility) management, although more explanatory variables prevail (Zwart, 2010). Yet, we can distinguish between 'high water, low economic value' crops and 'low water, high economic value' alternatives. Cereals (excluding maize and rice), maize (green and grain) and sunflower are classified in the former group, while potatoes and vineyards are valuable crops on a ‘crop-per-drop’ assessment basis. Sugar beets exhibit medium productivity values. Olive and citrus plantations are more of a regional interest (Southern EU), with citrus being a high added value crops while olives highly vary in economic productivities, mainly influenced by the great difference in production values between table olives and oil olive. Fruits and vineyards also vary highly in the range of products and water needs, so no concrete messages can be conveyed through the present analysis.

Overall, the highest economic benefits per m3 irrigation water, seen from the farmer's perspective (expressed as ECWP values by purchasing power) is obtained in Eastern European areas, followed by Western and Southern countries. Specific areas can be flagged out with highest ECWP values on a crops specific basis: in NL and HU for cereals, in HU and PL for maize, in LV, EE, HU, FR, RO for potatoes, in HU, NL, SK, PL for sugar beets, in HU, SK, AT for sunflowers, in HR and CY for citrus.

With agriculture being one of the largest consumers of water in Europe, significant gains in water productivity are expected to be made in this sector. Correlations between ECWP values and the irrigation method used have been observed: in areas where surface irrigation systems prevail there is an observed linear trend of lower ECWP values, whereas higher ECWP values are observed in areas dominated by sprinklers with zero to minor surface irrigation.

Spatial information on water use, crop production and water productivity will play a vital role for water managers to assess where scarce water resources are wasted and where in a given region the water productivity can be improved, facilitating thus decisions on where to invest and what measures to implement for making irrigated agriculture more water productive (Zwart, 2010).

Area covered by each of the main irrigated crops

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ECWP (in € PPS/m3) for maize (green and grain) and cereals (excl. maize and rice) among European Countries

Note: The chart displays the production value at producer price (values at current prices) in € PPS of the irrigated cereals (excluding maize and rice) and maize (green and grain) per volume of water used for their irrigation (in m3) among different countries in Europe.

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ECWP (in € PPS/m3) for sugar beet, rape and sunflower among European Countries

Note: The chart displays the production value at producer price (values at current prices) in € PPS of the irrigated sugar beet, rape and sunflower per volume of water used for their irrigation (in m3) among different countries in Europe.

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ECWP (in € PPS/m3) for potatoes among European Countries

Note: The chart displays the production value at producer price (values at current prices) in € PPS of the irrigated potatoes per volume of water used for their irrigation (in m3) among different countries in Europe.

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ECWP (in € PPS/m3) for citrus plantations among European Countries

Note: The chart displays the production value (at producer price and at current values) in € PPS of the irrigated citrus plantations per volume of water used for their irrigation (in m3) among different countries in Europe

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Percentage of irrigated areas applying different irrigation methods

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Correlation between the average country level WUI and the % of area irrigated with surface irrigation systems in 24 EU countries

Note: The chart displays the correlation between the average country level WUI (in m3/€ PPS), among all crops in the country, and the % of area irrigated with surface irrigation systems in 22 European countries, with % of area irrigated with surface irrigation systems below 40% in 2010 (FI, DE, NO, DK, NL, SE, FR, UK, CH, MT, CZ, CY, AT, HU, SI, HR, EL, RO, PL, IT, ES, SK).

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Key assessment

 

Agriculture is a significant water user in Europe, accounting for around 33% of total water use, reaching up to 80% in parts of Southern Europe where irrigation needs are high (EEA, 2012). In arid and semi-arid areas of Europe (including much of Southern Europe) irrigation enables crop production where water would otherwise be a limiting factor, while in more humid and temperate areas, irrigation provides a way of regulating the seasonal availability of water to match agricultural needs, reducing the risk of crop failures during periods of low rainfall or drought and thereby stabilizing farmer incomes (EEA, 2012). Based on the Eurostat Farm Structure Survey (FSS) Agricultural census of 2010, about 10.5 million ha are irrigated in the whole of Europe (EU 28, plus Norway, Switzerland and Montenegro), representing a 6% of the total utilized agricultural area (UAA). The predominant irrigated crop is maize (green and grain) representing 21% of the total irrigated area, followed by the cereals (excluding maize and rice) (15%), olive plantations (9%), fruit and berry plantations (7%), fresh vegetables-open field (6%), vineyards (5%) and citrus plantations (5%). Rice, potatoes and sugar beets are less predominant, while sunflower, pulses, rape and textile crops are of a more regional character. The remaining “other crops on arable land” represent a 9%, while temporary and permanent grass is about 10%. The distribution of crops per country is presented in Figure 1.

Productivity is often used as metrics of efficiency and is, in general, a ratio referring to the unit of output per unit of input. The Economic Water Productivity of irrigated crops (ECWP) is applied for the main irrigated crops in Europe, with the purpose to facilitate the assessment of the actual output (physical and/or economic) of irrigated crops compared to the actual water used for the irrigation of these crops, linking thus water to the economy.

Maize and cereals, the predominant crops in the EU, exhibit medium to low water productivities among the EU NUTS2 regions. Overall, maize productivities are slightly higher than those of cereals (Figure 2), ranging on average around 2.03 € PPS/m3 for Eastern, 1.12 for Western and 0.67 for Southern European NUTS2 areas (Figure 10). PPS is Purchasing Power Standard (PPS) used for indexing.  The average productivities of cereals are lower, around 1.53 and 0.41 € PPS/m3 for Eastern and Southern respectively, while slightly higher (1.24) for Western Europe (Figure 9). Yet, this later value is in fact much lower (equal to 0.84) if we exclude Dutch areas from the average. Regarding maize, NUTS2 areas with significantly high productivities (>2.5 € PPS/m3) are located in most of Hungary, and Poland, as well as in France, Netherlands and Austria (individual cases). With regards to the cereals, productivities greater than 2.5 € PPS/m3 are observed in NUTS2 areas in most of Netherlands and Hungary.

The cultivation of sugar beets, rape and sunflower are of a higher profitability on “crop per drop” metrics than the previously mentioned crops (maize, cereals). The average ECWP for the sugar beets ranges around 3.83 € PPS/m3 for Eastern, 2.77 for Western and 1.10 for Southern European NUT2 areas (Figure11). Lower productivity values are observed for the rapes (and turnip rapes), around 2.44, 1.25 and 0.14 € PPS/m3 respectively, and for the sunflower (2.88 / 0.88 / 0.17 € PPS/m3 respectively). (Figure 3).

Potatoes demonstrate high ECWP value (Figure 4, Figure12), namely 12.80 € PPS/m3 for Eastern, 6.84 for Western and 6.68 for Southern European NUT2 areas, and are thus considered as a “strategic valuable crop” in the analysis. On the opposite side, rice has very low ECWP values (0.67 € PPS/m3 for Eastern and 0.21 for Southern European NUTS2 areas). Olives and citrus are of a more regional interest, prevailing in Southern Europe, the later exhibiting variable ECWP values ranging from 3.26 € PPS/m3 in Cyprus to 0.84 in Portugal (Figure 5, Figure 13).

Overall, it is observed that Southern EU countries demonstrate lower water productivities for the various crops investigated in the analysis. The spatial variability of water productivity within low productivity systems, found in the Southern EU areas as indicated by the ECWP, is higher than in high productivity systems because water supply in the former case is uncertain and farming conditions are sub-optimal. The high variability found in areas with low water productivity indicates that there is considerable scope for improvement.

With regards to the irrigation systems used, it is expected that higher values of the ECWP are related with more efficient systems (i.e. drop irrigation and sprinkler). At the EU level, 21% are surface irrigation systems, 54% sprinklers and 26% drop irrigation systems on average. These percentages highly vary from country to country with CY, EE and MT having widespread drop irrigation, DK, NO, NL, SE and UK being dominated by sprinklers, while BG, LT and ME principally using surface irrigation (Figure 6). In Eastern Europe the 3 systems are represented roughly at equal percentages. Western Europe is dominated by sprinklers at 84%, while in Southern Europe the sprinklers and drop irrigation systems together account for about 80%. Acknowledging the fact that the ECWP is influenced by many interacting factors (e.g. soil, climate, etc.) some correlations between the ECWP and the irrigation methods applied can be observed (Figure 7). A positive correlation is observed between the ECWP and sprinklers’ irrigation. A linear trend is observed with the ECWP increasing proportionally to increasing percentages of sprinkler irrigation systems used in the countries. The overall average ECWP of countries having more than 60% sprinklers is 2.56
€ PPS/m3, as opposed to an average value of 1.67 in those having less than 60%. The opposite trend (negative correlation), but less significant, is observed between the ECWP and surface irrigation, where the ECWP decreases with increased percentages of surface irrigation systems. The overall average ECWP of countries having less than 20% surface irrigation is 2.31
€ PPS/m3, as opposed to an average value of 1.76 in those having more than 20%. Of course, this is not an imperative rule as additional physical factors (e.g. soil fertility) influence the ECWP.

 

References

Zwart, S. J., (2010). Benchmarking water productivity in agriculture and the scope for improvement - remote sensing modelling from field to global scale. PhD Thesis, Published by: VSSD, Leeghwaterstraat 42, 2628 CA Delft, The Netherlands, ISBN: 978-90-6562-237-2.

Postel, S.L., 1998. Water for food production: will there be enough in 2025? Biosci. 48, pp 629-637.

Specific policy question: What is the current spatial distribution across Europe of water use intensity for the main types of crops in irrigated agriculture, expressed in indexed economic terms?

Water Used for Irrigation in Europe per NUTS2 Regions (m3/ha)

Note: The map shows Water Used for Irrigation in (m3/ha) among different countries in Europe at NUTS2 level. Irrigation water for kitchen gardens and crops under glass is not included. There is uncertainty if combined use of irrigation drainage system is quantified and included where applied.

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ECWP (in € PPS/m3) for cereals (excl. maize and rice) across EU NUTS2 areas

Note: The map shows the production value (at producer price and at current values) in € PPS of the irrigated cereals per volume of water used for their irrigation (in m3) among different countries in Europe at NUTS2 level.

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ECWP (in € PPS/m3) for maize (green and grain) across EU NUTS2 areas

Note: The map shows the production value at producer price (values at current prices) in € PPS of the irrigated maize (green and grain) per volume of water used for their irrigation (in m3) among different countries in Europe at NUTS2 level

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ECWP (in € PPS/m3) sugarbeet across EU NUTS2 areas

Note: The map shows the production value at producer price (values at current prices) in € PPS of the irrigated sugarbeet per volume of water used for their irrigation (in m3) among different countries in Europe at NUTS2 level

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ECWP (in € PPS/m3) potatoes across EU NUTS2 areas

Note: The map shows the production value at producer price (values at current prices) in € PPS of the irrigated potatoes per volume of water used for their irrigation (in m3) among different countries in Europe at NUTS2 level

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Specific assessment

 

With the limits of the Green Revolution being reached, and the fresh water resources unsustainably exploited, research and policy are opting to increase the productivity of water in agriculture to sustain and improve food security. This strategy is more popularly stated “to produce more crop per drop” (Kijne et al., 2003). In a broader sense, increasing the productivity of water means getting more value from each drop of water. The scale and importance of irrigation is significantly greater in the Southern EU areas but far from negligible in most Eastern and Western EU areas. Areas with more than 3.000 m3/ha irrigation water use are (besides the Mediterranean countries ES, PT, FR, IT, EL, MT, CY) encountered in RO, AT, BG, ME, SI, while areas with irrigation use between 1.000-3.000 m/ha are additionally observed in DE, DK, HR, SE, SK, UK (Figure 8). It has to be noted that irrigation water for kitchen gardens and crops under glass (vegetables, flowers and permanent crops) is excluded from this analysis, it is thus understood that these volumes would be higher if the later intensive crops were included. It is assumed that all irrigation methods are included in the FSS. However, uncertainty is raised whether the combined use of irrigation/drainage systems (i.e. draining in wet season, submerged irrigation in dry season by raising water tables in rivers or groundwater), common in some countries, is actually quantified and accounted for. If not included, this will falsely increase the calculatated water productivities.

Different crops are subject to irrigation at varying levels of intensity across the EU NUTS2 areas. Four main categories are distinguished by the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP, 2000): 

1.       Extensive crops (E): these are generally lower value or permanent crops for which irrigation is used mainly in arid regions to stimulate enhanced growth and productivity, at a fairly low level (e.g. permanent grassland, permanent crops including olives, vines and citrus/apple orchards).

2.       Semi-intensive crops (S): these are generally lower value crops where irrigation is more widely used to improve growth rates and productivity, either on a seasonal basis at times of peak demand (notably in northern Member States) or for most of the cropping period. Rates of water use are generally higher than for extensive crops (e.g. sown or temporary grassland, alfalfa less than 5yrs old, cereals or oilseeds, maize - maize could also be considered as intensive with regards to water use).

3.       Intensive crops (I): these are generally high value crops where irrigation can be critically important to maintain yields and quality and it is therefore more intensively applied to the crop (e.g. root crops such as potatoes, sugar beet and swedes, industrial crops such as cotton and tobacco, open air horticulture (salads, green vegetables grown in the open), glasshouse production (salads, tomatoes)

4.       Saturated crops (S): where water is used to flood fields in order to facilitate the production of crops which require saturation conditions (e.g. rice)

With regards to the semi-intensive crops, cereals (excluding maize and rice) being a representative one, the ECWP ranges from 0.01-5.91 € PSS/m3 among the NUTS2 areas (Figure 9), with areas in NL (e.g. Flevoland, Drenthe, Overijssel, Zuid-Holland), HU (e.g. Észak-Magyarország, Nyugat-Dunántúl, Közép-Dunántúl, Dél-Dunántúl), SK (Západné Slovensko, Bratislavský kraj) being flagged as the most productive on a crop per drop basis.

The semi-intensive crops sugar beets and potatoes demonstrate higher water productivities, ranging from 0.07-9.13 € PPS/m3 and 0.25-66.84 € PPS/m3 respectively. With regards to the sugar beets, areas in NL (e.g. Flevoland, Overijssel, Zuid-Holland, Friesland), HU (e.g. Észak-Alföld), SK (e.g. Bratislavský kraj), PL (e.g. Wielkopolskie, Kujawsko-Pomorskie) outstand as most water productive (Figure 11). For the potatoes, a high variability in productivities is detected, while the highest ECWP values are observed in FR (e.g. Corse, Alsace, Guadeloupe, Auvergne), HU (e.g. Nyugat-Dunántúl, Észak-Magyarország, Közép-Magyarország, Dél-Alföld), LV (Latvija), RO (e.g. Sud-Est, Nord-Est), EE (Eesti) (Figure 12).

Maize can be classified as a semi-intensive to intensive crop. The observed ECWP values are higher than those of cereals but lower than those of sugar beets, ranging from 0.03-7.30 € PPS/m3 across the EU NUTS2 areas. High ECWP values for maize are evident in areas of HU (e.g. Észak-Magyarország, Közép-Dunántúl, Közép-Magyarország, Nyugat-Dunántúl, Dél-Dunántúl), PL (e.g. Lubelskie, Mazowieckie, Lubuskie), FR (e.g. Corse) (Figure 10).

Citrus is of regional interest, cultivated in Southern EU and Croatia. ECWP values range from 0.07-3.26 € PPS/m3 across Southern EU NUTS2 areas, while HR, CY and the Região Autónoma da Madeira (PT) demonstrate the highest productivities (See Map 13: ECWP (in € PPS/m3) citrus across EU NUTS2 areas).

Crops of different values as subject to various levels of irrigation intensity, being generally categorized from extensive (lower value) to intensive (high value, elevated irrigation needs) (IEEP, 2000). As technology improves and water saving measures are applied, crop water productivity is expected to rise. Hence, it can be considered as an indicator of the socio-technological response to water scarcity.

 

References

EEA (2012). EEA (2012). Towards efficient use of water resources in Europe, EEA Report, No 1/2012.

IEEP (2000). The environmental impacts of irrigation in the European Union. A report to the Environment Directorate-General of the European Commission by the Institute for European Environmental Policy, London, in association with the Polytechnical University of Madrid and the University of Athens, March 2000.

Kijne, J.W., R. Barker, D. Molden (2003). Water Productivity in Agriculture: Limits and Opportunities for Improvement. CAB International, Wallingford UK.

Pfeiffer, L. and C.-Y. Cynthia Lin. (2010). Does Efficient Irrigation Technology Lead to Reduced Groundwater Extraction?: Empirical Evidence. Agricultural and Applied Economics Association 2010 AAEA,CAES, and WAEA Joint Annual Meeting, Denver, Colorado, July 25-27, 2010.

UNEP (2012). Measuring Water use in a Green Economy. ISBN: 978-92-807-3220-7


Data sources

Policy context and targets

Context description

The global ecosystem’s capacity to provide resource inputs and assimilate adverse impacts is a crucial precondition for the functioning of our world economy. Once resources are used beyond the sustainable limit of ecosystems, the damage caused to the latter further deteriorates their services.

 During the recent decades, agriculture has experienced major productivity gains; however, this trend slowed down in developed countries in recent years. These gains were achieved partly by putting serious strains on natural resources and the environment (EC, 2012b): 45% of European soils face problems of soil quality, valuable ecosystem services have been damaged or disappeared, 40% of agricultural land is vulnerable to nitrate pollution threatening water resources, and over-exploitation of water resources due to intense irrigation is evident in many areas.

Agriculture has made major strides in terms of reconciling production with the need to manage natural resources sustainably and to preserve the environment. However, these positive developments may be undermined by the expected increase in agricultural output as a result of rising global demand (FAO estimates an increase by 70% in world food demand by 2050) (EC, 2012b). If this increase is delivered as per current approaches, this will in turn further damage natural resources and the environment (EC, 2012b). Pursuant to the Flagship initiative (EC, 2011a), the European Commission has elaborated a “Roadmap to a resource efficient Europe” (EC, 2011b) outlining “how we can transform Europe's economy into a sustainable one by 2050” and proposing ways to “increase resource productivity and decouple economic growth from resource use and its environmental impact”.

Increased productivity and competitiveness of agriculture calls for improved resource efficiency in order to produce with less water, energy, fertilizers and pesticides (EC, 2012b). The EEA report “Towards efficient use of water resources in Europe” (EEA, 2012) also underlines the need to increase water productivity in order to effectively support the EU Green Economy and Agriculture. The European Innovation Partnership (EIP) on "Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability"(EC, 2012b), set by DG Environment for the period 2014-2020, aims to address probably the two most fundamental challenges faced by European agriculture in the early 21st century: (a) how to increase production and productivity in order to respond to the significant growth in global food demand (caused by population growth, changes in dietary patterns and the slowdown in productivity growth); and (b) how to improve sustainability and resource efficiency (e.g. inputs of water, energy, fertilizers and pesticides) and address environmental issues (such as biodiversity loss). In short, it will address the challenges of "not only how to produce more, but also how to produce better".

 

Targets

EU wide targets related to sustainable agriculture and more specifically the water use intensity of irrigated crops have not yet been set. Resource efficiency strategic documents e.g. The Flagship Initiative (EC, 2011a) present the rather general objective of “increasing resource productivity and decoupling economic growth from resource use and its environmental impact”.

According to the EEA Report “Resource efficiency in Europe” (EEA, 2011) specific national targets related to resource efficiency in agriculture have been set in 5 MS (AT, BG, CY, DK, FR) but these relate mostly to the increase of share of ecologically or organically farmed areas.

Related policy documents

Methodology

Methodology for indicator calculation

 

Water Use Intensity (WUI) of irrigated crops (m3 / € PPS)

Water Use Irrigationcrop (m3) / Economic Outputcrop (€ PPS)

 

The nominator of the indicator (i.e. Water Use Irrigationcrop - total water used for irrigation of the specific crop in the area, in m3) cannot be directly fed with existing data (due to lack of available information on water use per crop type) and thus some intermediate calculations have to be performed, as described below:

 The volume of water used for irrigation within each NUTS2 area (data from the FSS) has been disaggregated to derive the corresponding irrigation water per crop within the NUTS2. The former represents the water that has been used for irriga­tion on the holdings during the 12 months prior to the reference date of the FSS (currently 2010), regardless of the source of water (or whether part of it comes from reclaimed wastewater). This information has been provided by the countries using data estimation/ imputation/ modelling methods (EC Eurostat, 2011). The main sources of water used for irrigation on the holdings are on-farm ground water, on-farm surface water (ponds or dams), off-farm surface water (lakes, rivers, watercourses), off-farm water from common water supply systems and other sources which include treated saline, brackish or reclaimed wastewater. The data, as specified by the FSS, are designed to include all relevant irrigation sources that represent a consumptive use (thus reclaimed water as well), but the methodology to quantify the respective volumes is left to the countries and there is no specific information on what share of the demand is met by reclaimed water where relevant.

To distribute the total amount of water used for irrigation among the different crops of each NUTS2 area, a simplified method has been followed according to the indicative values of crop water needs as provided by FAO (FAO, 1986; Table 14).

It is recognised that the above mentioned simplification neglects the effect of the irrigation methods which clearly relate to different efficiencies (sprinkler, drop, etc.) (EEA, 2012). The Eurostat FSS provides data on the % of holdings within each NUTS2 area that use different types of irrigation methods, namely surface, sprinkler and drop irrigation. This information is considered in the assessment of the indicator to facilitate the formulation of additional conclusions.

 

The denominator of the indicator is calculated as follows:

Economic Outputcrop (€ PPS) = Production Valuecrop  x  Irrigated Areacrop  /  Utilized Agricultural Areacrop (UAAc)

Where,

Production Valuecrop (Prc) is the production value at producer price of a specific crop in a specified area (in € PPS, values at current prices)

Irrigated Areacrop (Airr,c)  is the irrigated area (in ha) covered by a specific crop

Utilized Agricultural Areacrop (UAAc) is the Utilized Agricultural Area (both irrigated and rain-fed) of this crop (in ha)

 

Prc refers to the production value that comes from the Utilized Agricultural Area of the crop in a specific NUTS 2 area. Since it is calculated at producer prices, this value is what the producer receives from the sale of the production less any deductible tax that is invoiced to the purchaser as part of the transaction. Data applied originate from Eurostat economic accounts for agriculture – regional agricultural statistics. Furthermore, as Prc at the NUTS2 level is available in €, it has been converted to € PPS (using the country equivalents available in Eurostat) to account for differences in the purchasing power of the national currencies of Member States in the calculation of the indicator.

 

To calculate the production value of the crop which corresponds to the irrigated area alone, Prc needs to be adjusted by multiplying it by the ratio of the irrigated area of the crop over the whole utilized agricultural area covered by that crop (i.e. Airr,c / UAAc). Data applied originate from Eurostat Farm Structure Survey-FSS[1],[2].

The indicator is applied for the whole of Europe (to the extent that this is possible according to the data availability) at a disaggregated spatial scale (per crop type within each NUTS2 area) and for the year with the latest available relevant information (currently 2010). The indicator will be updated every time new data are available from the Farm Structure Survey (FSS) (roughly every 3 years) using always the latest available annual information, in order to have a better knowledge and understanding of the trends and evolution of the irrigated crops’ water intensity in Europe over time.



[1] Council Regulation (EEC) No 571/88 of 29 February 1988 on the organization of Community surveys on the structure of agricultural holdings (OJ L 56, 2.3.1988, p. 1)

[2] Regulation (EC) No 1166/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 November 2008on farm structure surveys and the survey on agricultural production methods and repealing Council. Regulation (EEC) No 571/88.

Methodology for gap filling

Data gap filling has been implemented where data on the production value (Prc) of a specific crop were unavailable for a specified NUTS2 area for the year 2010. In that case, using the values of previous years (e.g. 2009, 2008) for that specific crop in that specific area, and the country value for the year 2010, the missing data have been approximated applying reasonable ratios.

Data on water used for irrigation (m3) of each specific crop within each NUTS2 area are not available in the FSS. Thus, these volumes have been approximated using the total volume of water used for the irrigation of each NUTS2 area and indicative values of crop water needs as provided by FAO. The “theoretical water needs” (m3) of each crop have been calculated by multiplying the indicative FAO values (mm) with the irrigated area of each crop (ha), and the “total theoretical irrigation water needs” of the entire NUTS2 area have been estimated by summing these up. The ratio of the total water use for irrigation (at the NUTS2 level) over the “total theoretical irrigation water needs” of the NUTS2 has been estimated, and this ratio has been applied to each crop in order to approximate the allocation of the irrigation water to each crop. This methodology is simplified, and can be further improved in the future, since it assumes that the NUTS2 irrigation water is homogeneously distributed to each crop according to its needs, while in practice some crops may be “favored” in the actual allocation schemas.

Methodology references

Uncertainties

Methodology uncertainty

The proxies that have been used to estimate the water used for the irrigation of each crop within the NUTS2 area are simplified, based on crop water needs. It is assumed that the NUTS2 irrigation water is homogeneously distributed to each crop according to its needs, while in practice some crops may be “favoured” in the actual allocation schemas. Additionally, the indicative FAO values used in this calculation have been applied throughout Europe, without being adjusted for some climate variability. Thus, we may slightly systematically underestimate or overestimate the volume that is in reality used to irrigate each specific crop in a NUTS2 area.

It is further recognised that the above mentioned simplification neglects the effect of the irrigation methods, which clearly relate to different efficiencies (sprinkler, drop, etc.). The unit water used for irrigation should be lower if effective irrigation systems are in place. The Eurostat FSS provides data on the % of holdings within the NUTS 2 that use different types of irrigation methods, namely surface, sprinkler and drop irrigation. This information is considered in the assessment of the indicator to facilitate the formulation of additional conclusions.

It is also not possible to differentiate what share of irrigation water comes from reclamation systems, in case this is applicable, thus posing less pressure to the water balance of the area from a quantitative point of view. It is assumed that all irrigation methods are included in the FSS. However, uncertainty is also raised whether the combined use of dual irrigation/drainage systems (i.e. draining in wet season, submerged irrigation in dry season by raising water tables in rivers or groundwater), which is practiced in some countries (i.e. Poland, Netherlands), is actually quantified and accounted for. If not included, this will falsely increase estimated irrigation volumes.

To calculate the economic output (PSS) some assumptions have been made, since Eurostat data provide production values per crop (within the NUTS 2 region) for the total Utilized Agricultural Area (UAA) covered by each crop. A differentiation on how much of the production value comes from the share of the crop which is irrigated vs. the share of the same crop which is non-irrigated does not exist. Thus, we used the existing information for the UAA, assuming that the reported yields apply equally to the irrigated and the non-irrigated areas, whereas the irrigated areas would have higher yields. As this assumption has been applied homogeneously for all crops among the NUTS2 areas it does not heavily impact the cross-comparison among the regions, but it may of course systematically overestimate the water use intensities (lower efficiency) of irrigated crops across all EU.

Data sets uncertainty

 

 

The FSS reported parameter “Volume of water used for irrigation per year (m3)” has been provided by the countries using data estimation/ imputation/ modelling methods. Thus, this dataset itself is subject to uncertainties inherently related with the methodology used by the countries. To this extent, it is also not possible to differentiate what share of irrigation water comes from reclamation systems, in case this is applicable, thus posing less pressure to the water balance of the area from a quantitative point of view. It is assumed that all irrigation methods are included in the FSS. However, uncertainty is also raised whether the combined use of dual irrigation/drainage systems (i.e. draining in wet season, submerged irrigation in dry season by raising water tables in rivers or groundwater), which is practiced in some countries (i.e. Poland, Netherlands), is actually quantified and accounted for. If not included, this will falsely increase estimated irrigation volumes.

Based on the Eurostat “Handbook on implementing the FSS and SAPM definitions - Revision 9” (EC Eurostat, 2011, ESTAT/E-1/JS/AC, CPSA/SB/652. Rev. 9) the reported parameter “Volume of water used for irrigation per year (m3)” should have included the water used for kitchen gardens and crops under glass (vegetables, flowers and permanent crops). Yet, in the actual reporting, some countries did indeed include these, while others excluded them (or part of them). To consistently apply the WUI indicator, the reported volume of water used for irrigation was adjusted to always exclude water used for kitchen gardens and under glass crops in order not to confuse the analysis. To perform this adjustment, all the country reports have been thoroughly studied by the authors in order to gain the knowledge of what the reported volume represented, yet some misunderstanding may have occurred.

The reported values of “Volume of water used for irrigation per year (m3)” for Switzerland and Portugal, seem to be too high if compared with the average values reported by other countries. These values look a bit suspicious, so double checking by the countries is advised.

In some NUTS2 areas the “Sum of the irrigated areas of all crops” within the NUTS2 and the reported “Total irrigated area of the NUTS2” did not match. This raised some concerns and questions whether this could be expected, or, in cases of large differences, which dataset is most accurate.

In some cases the Utilized Agricultural Area (UAA in ha) of a specific crop was smaller than the Area Irrigated in the previous 12 months of that specific crop, which seems unrealistic. In these cases the irrigated area was considered to be the accurate value, while the UAA was adjusted.

In some NUTS2 areas a percentage of the rice cultivation was presented as non-irrigated, which seems unrealistic. In these cases all cultivated rice areas have been considered as irrigated.

 

In some cases the Utilized Agricultural Area (UAA in ha) of a specific crop was smaller than the Area Irrigated in the previous 12 months of that specific crop, which seems unrealistic. In these cases the irrigated area was considered to be the accurate value, while the UAA was adjusted.

In some NUTS2 areas a percentage of the rice cultivation was presented as non-irrigated, which seems unrealistic. In these cases all cultivated rice areas have been considered as irrigated.

Rationale uncertainty

Indicators that combine aspects of resource efficiency and convey information on water use intensity enable multidimensional issues to be summarized, supporting decision-making at the national and international levels, facilitating ranking and cross-comparison of countries and regions, attracting public interest and promoting accountability. The high level aggregation means, however, that they can result in misinterpretation and overly simplistic conclusions (Saisana and Tarantola, 2002).

More information about this indicator

See this indicator specification for more details.

Generic metadata

Topics:

Water Water (Primary topic)

Agriculture Agriculture

Green economy Green economy

Tags:
water efficiency | irrigation | green economy | crops | water | water productivity | water economy | agriculture | water productivity water efficiency / agriculture / water / green economy / crops / irrigation
DPSIR: Pressure
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
Indicator codes
  • WREI 004
Dynamic
Temporal coverage:
2010
Geographic coverage:
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom

Contacts and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Bo Jacobsen

Ownership

EEA Management Plan

2013 1.4.3 (note: EEA internal system)

Dates

Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled every 3 years
European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Denmark
Phone: +45 3336 7100