Articles | Volume 18, issue 9
Research article
05 Sep 2014
Research article |  | 05 Sep 2014

Real-time drought forecasting system for irrigation management

A. Ceppi, G. Ravazzani, C. Corbari, R. Salerno, S. Meucci, and M. Mancini

Abstract. In recent years frequent periods of water scarcity have enhanced the need to use water more carefully, even in European areas which traditionally have an abundant supply of water, such as the Po Valley in northern Italy. In dry periods, water shortage problems can be enhanced by conflicting uses of water, such as irrigation, industry and power production (hydroelectric and thermoelectric). Furthermore, in the last decade the social perspective in relation to this issue has been increasing due to the possible impact of climate change and global warming scenarios which emerge from the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (IPCC, 2013). Hence, the increased frequency of drought periods has stimulated the improvement of irrigation and water management.

In this study we show the development and implementation of the PREGI real-time drought forecasting system; PREGI is an Italian acronym that means "hydro-meteorological forecast for irrigation management". The system, planned as a tool for irrigation optimization, is based on meteorological ensemble forecasts (20 members) at medium range (30 days) coupled with hydrological simulations of water balance to forecast the soil water content on a maize field in the Muzza Bassa Lodigiana (MBL) consortium in northern Italy. The hydrological model was validated against measurements of latent heat flux acquired by an eddy-covariance station, and soil moisture measured by TDR (time domain reflectivity) probes; the reliability of this forecasting system and its benefits were assessed in the 2012 growing season. The results obtained show how the proposed drought forecasting system is able to have a high reliability of forecast at least for 7–10 days ahead of time.