Reducing the impact of irrigated crops on freshwater availability: the case of Brazilian yellow melons

M.C. Brito de Figueirêdo, I.J.M. de Boer, C. Kroeze, V. da Silva Barros, J.A. de Sousa, F.A. Souza de Aragão, R. Sonsol Gondim, J. Potting

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose This study quantifies freshwater consumption throughout the life cycle of Brazilian exported yellow melons and assesses the resulting impact on freshwater availability. Results are used to identify improvement options. Moreover, the study explores the further impact of variations in irrigation volume, yield, and production location. Methods The product system boundary encompasses production of seeds, seedlings, and melon plants; melon packing; disposal of solid farm waste; and farm input and melon transportation to European ports. The primary data in the study were collected from farmers in order to quantify freshwater consumption related to packing and to production of seeds, seedlings, and melons. Open-field melon irrigation was also estimated, considering the region's climate and soil characteristics. Estimated and current water consumptions were compared in order to identify impact reduction opportunities. Sensitivity analysis was used to evaluate variations in the impact because of changes in melon field irrigation, yield, and farm location. Results and discussion This study shows that the average impact on freshwater availability of 1 kg of exported Brazilian yellow melons is 135 l H2O-e, with a range from 17 to 224 l H2O-e depending on the growing season's production period. Irrigation during plant production accounts for 98 % of this impact. Current melon field water consumption in the Low Jaguaribe and Açu region is at least 39 % higher than necessary, which affects the quality of fruits and yield. The impact of melon production in other world regions on freshwater availability may range from 0.3 l H2O-e/kg in Costa Rica to 466 l H2O-e/kg in the USA. Conclusions The impact of temporary crops, such as melons, on water availability should be presented in ranges, instead of as an average, since regional consumptive water and water stress variations occur in different growing season periods. Current and estimated water consumption for irrigation may also be compared in order to identify opportunities to achieve optimization and reduce water availability impact.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)437-448
JournalThe International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • environmental impacts
  • lca
  • l.
  • consumption
  • products
  • quality
  • yield


Dive into the research topics of 'Reducing the impact of irrigated crops on freshwater availability: the case of Brazilian yellow melons'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this