Balancing Groundwater Conservation and Rural Livelihoods Under Water and Climate Uncertainties: An Integrated Hydro-Economic Modeling Framework

Short Description

Competing access to water resources among sectors and regions and derived social conflicts are widespread throughout arid and semiarid countries worldwide. One example is the Mediterranean basin in which irrigation expansion has been a key driver for developing the agricultural sector and rural livelihoods (Benoit and Comeau, 2005). Along with the development of publicly funded surface irrigation networks and water storage infrastructure, groundwater irrigation has expanded progressively under private initiatives by a countless number of individual farmers. This has been the case of Spain’s Mediterranean littoral and its southern hinterland, where groundwater is the main source of water for irrigation.  Its mounting expansion over the last decades has been the response of easily accessible modern drilling and pumping technologies for many individual farmers, low cost of irrigation equipment, lucrative farming activities and the higher resilience of subterranean waters to climate variability (Llamas and Martinez-Santos, 2006, Mukherji, 2006, Varela-Ortega, 2007).  However, groundwater based economic and social development has come along with significant environmental damage to aquatic ecosystems, giving rise to acute social conflicts as environmental awareness expands in society. The Upper Guadiana basin in Spain’s inland region of Castilla La Mancha provides an example of water related conflicts that have persisted over the years. On one hand, intensive use of groundwater has offset the everlasting drought problems in the area and has given rise to an irrigation-based thriving economy of a once stagnated region. On the other hand, water pumping has led to overexploitation of the region’s large aquifer ‘Western La Mancha’, and the progressive degradation of the nearby internationally known wetlands of the national park 'Tablas de Daimiel.’

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Suggested Citation


Consuelo Varela-Ortega, Irene Blanco-Gutiérrez, Christopher H. Swartz, Thomas E. Downing, Balancing groundwater conservation and rural livelihoods under water and climate uncertainties: An integrated hydro-economic modeling framework, Global Environmental Change, Volume 21, Issue 2, May 2011, Pages 604-619, ISSN 0959-3780