Characterization of the Agricultural Supply of Desalinated Seawater in Southeastern Spain

The results show how seawater desalination is effectively alleviating the regional constraints in the irrigated agriculture supply, and why it is becoming strategic to maintaining food production and socioeconomic development

Victoriano Martínez-Alvarez; Jose F. Maestre-Valero; Manuel J. González-Ortega; Belén Gallego-Elvira; Bernardo Martin-Gorriz


Scholarcy highlights

  • Population growth, economic, social and urban development, and, especially, the development of irrigated agriculture in response to the growing demand for food, are the main drivers of the water demand increase in Mediterranean countries
  • Irrigated agriculture is the sector that is most affected by water scarcity, as it currently accounts for 70% of global freshwater withdrawals and more than 90% of consumptive use
  • A typical desalinated seawater production and supply system for agriculture in SE Spain consists of five stages, each with different SEC requirements, as represented in Figure 4: seawater intake pumping; desalination processes; pumping to a regulating elevated reservoir; gravity-driven conveyance to irrigation districts; and pumping for water distribution within irrigation districts themselves
  • To control and stabilize agricultural DSW demand, long term take-or-pay contracts between seawater desalination plants and irrigation districts should be signed, in a similar way to what has been done in Israel, where a take-or-pay policy ensures that the government will pay for the agreed volume of water supplied by SWDPs each year, guaranteeing that the facilities operate at their projected capacity
  • Climate change impacts and increased pressure on conventional water resources are encouraging the agricultural use of DSW
  • Based on the case presented here, it is recommended that DWS is considered as a base supply in regional water planning and management instead of an emergency supply for accommodating shortfalls in demand
  • Overall, notwithstanding the high cost of desalinated seawater, its agricultural use can foster irrigated agriculture resilience as water scarcity intensifies in a changing climate, helping to preserve socioeconomic development in highly profitable agricultural areas, where no other water resources and/or economic activity alternatives are possible

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