Can global precipitation datasets benefit the estimation of the area to be cropped in irrigated agriculture?

Alexander Kaune*, Micha Werner, Patricia López López, Erasmo Rodríguez, Poolad Karimi, Charlotte De Fraiture

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The area to be cropped in irrigation districts needs to be planned according to the available water resources to avoid agricultural production loss. However, the period of record of local hydro-meteorological data may be short, leading to an incomplete understanding of climate variability and consequent uncertainty in estimating surface water availability for irrigation area planning. In this study we assess the benefit of using global precipitation datasets to improve surface water availability estimates. A reference area that can be irrigated is established using a complete record of 30 years of observed river discharge data. Areas are then determined using simulated river discharges from six local hydrological models forced with in situ and global precipitation datasets (CHIRPS and MSWEP), each calibrated independently with a sample of 5 years extracted from the full 30-year record. The utility of establishing the irrigated area based on simulated river discharge simulations is compared against the reference area through a pooled relative utility value (PRUV). Results show that for all river discharge simulations the benefit of choosing the irrigated area based on the 30 years of simulated data is higher compared to using only 5 years of observed discharge data, as the statistical spread of PRUV using 30 years is smaller. Hence, it is more beneficial to calibrate a hydrological model using 5 years of observed river discharge and then to extend it with global precipitation data of 30 years as this weighs up against the model uncertainty of the model calibration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2351-2368
Number of pages18
JournalHydrology and Earth System Sciences
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 16 May 2019

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