Crop yields response to water pressures in the Ebro basin in Spain: risk and water policy implications
Abstract. The increasing pressure on water systems in the Mediterranean enhances existing water conflicts and threatens water supply for agriculture. In this context, one of the main priorities for agricultural research and public policy is the adaptation of crop yields to water pressures. This paper focuses on the evaluation of hydrological risk and water policy implications for food production. Our methodological approach includes four steps. For the first step, we estimate the impacts of rainfall and irrigation water on crop yields. However, this study is not limited to general crop production functions since it also considers the linkages between those economic and biophysical aspects which may have an important effect on crop productivity. We use statistical models of yield response to address how hydrological variables affect the yield of the main Mediterranean crops in the Ebro river basin. In the second step, this study takes into consideration the effects of those interactions and analyzes gross value added sensitivity to crop production changes. We then use Montecarlo simulations to characterize crop yield risk to water variability. Finally we evaluate some policy scenarios with irrigated area adjustments that could cope in a context of increased water scarcity. A substantial decrease in irrigated land, of up to 30% of total, results in only moderate losses of crop productivity. The response is crop and region specific and may serve to prioritise adaptation strategies.