A coupled agronomic-economic model to consider allocation of brackish irrigation water

Alon Ben-Gal, Hans Peter Weikard, Syed Hamid Hussain Shah, Sjoerd E A T M Van Der Zee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


In arid and semiarid regions, irrigation water is scarce and often contains high concentrations of salts. To reduce negative effects on crop yields, the irrigated amounts must include water for leaching and therefore exceed evapotranspiration. The leachate (drainage) water returns to water sources such as rivers or groundwater aquifers and increases their level of salinity and the leaching requirement for irrigation water of any sequential user. We develop a conceptual sequential (upstream-downstream) model of irrigation that predicts crop yields and water consumption and tracks the water flow and level of salinity along a river dependent on irrigation management decisions. The model incorporates an agro-physical model of plant response to environmental conditions including feedbacks. For a system with limited water resources, the model examines the impacts of water scarcity, salinity and technically inefficient application on yields for specific crop, soil, and climate conditions. Moving beyond the formulation of a conceptual frame, we apply the model to the irrigation of Capsicum annum on Arava Sandy Loam soil. We show for this case how water application could be distributed between upstream and downstream plots or farms. We identify those situations where it is beneficial to trade water from upstream to downstream farms (assuming that the upstream farm holds the water rights). We find that water trade will improve efficiency except when loss levels are low. We compute the marginal value of water, i.e., the price water would command on a market, for different levels of water scarcity, salinity and levels of water loss.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2861-2871
Number of pages11
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • irrigation
  • return flows
  • salinity management
  • water management
  • water pricing for irrigation

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