Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2021-388
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2021-388

  07 Sep 2021

07 Sep 2021

Review status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

A conceptual framework for including irrigation supply chains in the water footprint concept: gross and net blue and green water footprints in agriculture in Pakistan

Abdul Wahab Siyal1,3, Winnie Gerbens-Leenes1, Maite Aldaya2, and Rozina Naz3 Abdul Wahab Siyal et al.
  • 1Integrated Research on Energy, Environment and Society (IREES), University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
  • 2Institute on Innovation and Sustainable Development in the Food Chain (IS-FOOD), Public University of Navarra (UPNA), Pamplona, Spain
  • 3Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC), Islamabad

Abstract. The water footprint (WF) concept is a generally accepted tool introduced in 2002. Many studies applied water footprinting, indicating impacts of human consumption on freshwater, especially from agriculture. Although the WF includes supply chains, presently it excludes irrigation supply chains and non-beneficial evapotranspiration, and calculations for agriculture start from crop water requirements. We present a conceptual framework distinguishing between traditional (net) WFs and proposed gross WFs, defined as the sum of net WFs and irrigation supply chain related blue WFs and as the sum of green WFs and green WFs of weeds. Many water management studies focused on blue water supply efficiency, assessing water losses in supply chain links. The WF concept, however, excludes water flows to stocks where water remains available and recoverable, e.g. to usable groundwater, in contrast to many water management approaches. Also, many studies focused on irrigation technology improvement to save water. We argue that not only irrigation technology should be considered, but whole water supply chains, also distinguishing between surface and groundwater, to improve efficient blue water use in agriculture. This framework is applied to the Pakistani part of the Indus basin that includes the largest man-made irrigation network in the world. The gross blue WF is 1.6 times the net blue WF leading to a K value (ratio of gross and net blue WF) of 0.6. Surface water losses vary between 45 and 49 %, groundwater losses between 18 and 21 %. Presently, efficient irrigation receives much attention. However, it is important to take irrigation supply chains into account to improve irrigation efficiency. Earlier WF studies showing water scarcity in many regions underestimate agricultural water consumption if supply chains are neglected. More water efficient agriculture should take supply chain losses into account probably requiring water management adaptations, which is more a policy than an agriculture task.

Abdul Wahab Siyal et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on hess-2021-388', Anonymous Referee #1, 21 Oct 2021
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Abdul Wahab Siyal, 07 Nov 2021
  • RC2: 'Comment on hess-2021-388', Anonymous Referee #2, 10 Nov 2021
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Abdul Wahab Siyal, 17 Nov 2021

Abdul Wahab Siyal et al.

Abdul Wahab Siyal et al.

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Short summary
The water footprint (WF) is an accepted tool, but it excludes irrigation supply chains. We present a conceptual framework distinguishing between traditional net WFs and proposed gross WFs (with irrigation supply chain related blue WFs and green WFs of weeds). In the Pakistani part of the Indus basin the gross blue WF is 1.6 times the net blue WF showing that WFs are underestimated if supply chains are neglected. More water efficient agriculture should take these supply chain losses into account.