Creating Weather-Ready Farming Strategies Through Strong Decisions

Jenn Hoskins
21st March, 2024

Creating Weather-Ready Farming Strategies Through Strong Decisions

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Study in Iran's Sefidroud basin shows climate change may cut rainfall by 3.5-11.8% and dam inflow by 13-28%
  • Current water deficit in the basin's irrigation network could nearly double due to climate change
  • Switching to Dry-DSR irrigation could be a more effective strategy than just improving irrigation efficiency
Water is a fundamental resource for human survival and the backbone of agriculture, which in turn is crucial for food security. However, climate change is making water allocation an increasingly complex challenge. Decision-makers are in need of strategies that can withstand the uncertainties brought about by a changing climate, particularly in regions dependent on agriculture. A recent study by researchers at the University of Tehran[1] addresses this challenge by evaluating adaptive strategies for water allocation in the agricultural sector under climate change scenarios. The study focuses on the basin downstream of the Sefidroud dam in Iran, which is part of the Sefidroud irrigation and drainage network. This region is already experiencing water shortages, and the situation is expected to worsen with climate change. The researchers used the WEAP (Water Evaluation And Planning System) software to model the basin's water allocation from 2006 to 2020 and then projected the impact of climate change on surface water resources up to 2050, using different emission scenarios (RCP2.6, RCP4.5, and RCP8.5). Climate change is anticipated to reduce rainfall in the region by 3.5-11.8% and increase temperatures, leading to a decrease in inflow to the Sefidroud dam by 13-28%. The current water deficit in the irrigation network is significant, and future projections suggest it could nearly double. To address this, the study assessed two adaptation strategies: a 5% increase in irrigation efficiency (S1) and a shift to a water-saving irrigation method called Dry-DSR (direct seeded rice) (S2). The performance of these strategies was evaluated using regret and satisfaction approaches, which measure how well a strategy performs across various future scenarios. A strategy with low regret performs well even under the worst-case scenarios, while high satisfaction indices indicate a strategy performs well under the best-case scenarios. The findings show that the Dry-DSR method (S2) is more robust, with higher satisfaction indices than the strategy focusing solely on increasing irrigation efficiency (S1). This suggests that changing the irrigation method to Dry-DSR could be a more effective adaptation strategy to maintain stability in the basin under a range of uncertain future climate conditions. This study's approach aligns with previous research that emphasizes the need for robust decision-making in the face of climate uncertainties. For instance, a model framework combining many-objective robust decision making with biophysical modeling was applied to China's Pearl River basin[2], highlighting the importance of selecting appropriate decision-making tools to manage water allocation under climate change. It also resonates with research on strategic environmental assessments in arid regions of China, where the WEAP model was used to assess the impact of industrial activities on water resources[3]. Furthermore, the concept of adaptation pathways has been explored in the context of maintaining wheat yields in the face of climate change[4], underscoring the need for timely implementation of adaptation measures. The study from the University of Tehran contributes to this body of work by providing a concrete example of how specific adaptation strategies can be assessed for their robustness to climate change. It also highlights the importance of considering a wide range of possible future scenarios when planning for water resource management, as well as the need for ongoing evaluation and adjustment of strategies as conditions change. The results of this study are crucial for policymakers and water managers in the Sefidroud basin and similar agricultural regions around the world. They demonstrate that adaptation strategies must be carefully evaluated for their ability to cope with the uncertainties of climate change. While increasing irrigation efficiency is beneficial, the study suggests that changing irrigation methods may offer a more reliable solution for maintaining agricultural productivity and water resource stability in the long term. As climate change continues to impact water availability, such research provides a valuable guide for developing resilient water allocation plans.



Main Study

1) Developing climate change adaptation pathways in the agricultural sector based on robust decision-making approach (case study: Sefidroud Irrigation Network, Iran).

Published 18th March, 2024

Related Studies

2) Many-objective robust decision making for water allocation under climate change.

3) Application of the WEAP model in strategic environmental assessment: Experiences from a case study in an arid/semi-arid area in China.

4) Adaptation pathways of global wheat production: Importance of strategic adaptation to climate change.

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