Articles | Volume 18, issue 10
Research article
28 Oct 2014
Research article |  | 28 Oct 2014

Small farm dams: impact on river flows and sustainability in a context of climate change

F. Habets, E. Philippe, E. Martin, C. H. David, and F. Leseur

Abstract. The repetition of droughts in France has led to a growing demand for irrigation water and consequently to an increase in requests for the construction of small farm dams. Although such dams are small, their accumulation in a basin affects river flows, because the water collected in these small farm dams is used for irrigation and thus does not contribute to river flow. In order to gain more insight into their impact on the annual and monthly discharges, especially during dry years, a small farm dam model was built and connected to a hydrometeorological model. Several scenarios with different volume capacities, filling catchment sizes and filling periods were tested for such dams. The results were analysed in a small basin in western France, where the pressure for building such dams is high, and then extended to the entire country. It was found that, due to the hydrometeorological conditions (mainly low precipitation compared to other regions in France), the development of small farm dams in north-western France would result in greater decreases in river flows and less efficient filling of small farm dams than in other regions. Therefore, such dams might not be as efficient as expected in supplying water to farmers when needed. Moreover, the ability to fill small farm dams is projected to decrease in a context of climate change, despite the uncertainty on the evolution of precipitation, thus worsening the situation.