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Costs and benefits of satellite-based tools for irrigation management

By Francesco eVuolo, Laura eEssl and Clement eAtzberger

Abstract

This paper presents the results of a collaborative work with farmers and a cost-benefit analysis of geospatial technologies applied to irrigation water management in the semi-arid agricultural area in Lower Austria. We use Earth observation (EO) data to estimate crop evapotranspiration (ET) and webGIS technologies to deliver maps and irrigation advice to farmers. The study reports the technical and qualitative evaluation performed during a demonstration phase in 2013 and provides an outlook to future developments. The calculation of the benefits is based on a comparison of the irrigation volumes estimated from satellite vs. the irrigation supplied by the farmers. In most cases, the amount of water supplied was equal to the maximum amount of water required by crops. At the same time high variability was observed for the different irrigation units and crop types. Our data clearly indicates that economic benefits could be achieved by reducing irrigation volumes, especially for water-intensive crops. Regarding the qualitative evaluation, most of the farmers expressed a very positive interest in the provided information. In particular, information related to crop ET was appreciated as this helps to make better informed decisions on irrigation. The majority of farmers (54%) also expressed a general willingness to pay, either directly or via cost sharing, for such a service. Based on different cost scenarios, we calculated the cost of the service. Considering 20,000 ha regularly irrigated land, the advisory service would cost between 2.5 and 4.3 €/ha per year depending on the type of satellite data used. For comparison, irrigation costs range between 400 and 1000 €/ha per year for a typical irrigation volume of 2,000 cubic meters per ha. With a correct irrigation application, more than 10% of the water and energy could be saved in water-intensive crops, which is equivalent to an economic benefit of 40-100 €/ha per year

Topics: Cost-Benefit Analysis, evapotranspiration, Earth Observation, WebGIS, Mobile application, Irrigation advisory service, Environmental sciences, GE1-350
Publisher: Frontiers Media S.A.
Year: 2015
DOI identifier: 10.3389/fenvs.2015.00052
OAI identifier: oai:doaj.org/article:d1ab751173244691849874fa37b4d702
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