Assessing water requirements for irrigated agriculture in Scotland

J.W. Knox, K. Weatherhead, A.A.R. Ioris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In Europe the implementation of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) will have major implications for water resources management. Part of the Directive requires Member States to implement a comprehensive system of controls (licences) on the allocation and abstraction (withdrawal) of surface and groundwater resources. This paper describes the development of a procedure to help assess and set abstraction licences for agricultural irrigation. The methodology is described with reference to Scotland, a country with limited abstraction control previously and where irrigation is supplemental to rainfall. The methodology combines spatial climatic information using a Geographical Information System (GIS) with data derived from a water balance computer model. The procedure enables the volumetric irrigation demand in a 'design' dry year for a given site to be estimated, taking into account local variations in climate, soil type, land use and irrigation practices. The approach provides a scientifically robust framework to allow the regulatory authority to assess the 'reasonable' water requirements of individual irrigators and hence develop allocations to satisfy the range of competing demands (e.g. agriculture, industry, and environment) on water resources. The methodology is applicable in other temperate countries where water abstraction controls are required and where appropriate datasets are available. The application of the procedure and its methodological limitations are described.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-144
Number of pages12
JournalWater International
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2007


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