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Volume 22, issue 10 | Copyright

Special issue: Integration of Earth observations and models for global water...

Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 22, 5111-5123, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 04 Oct 2018

Research article | 04 Oct 2018

An improved method for calculating the regional crop water footprint based on a hydrological process analysis

Xiao-Bo Luan1,2,*, Ya-Li Yin3,*, Pu-Te Wu2,3, Shi-Kun Sun1,3, Yu-Bao Wang1,3, Xue-Rui Gao3, and Jing Liu4 Xiao-Bo Luan et al.
  • 1Institute of Water Saving Agriculture in Arid regions of China, Northwest A & F University, Yangling, Shaanxi 712100, China
  • 2Institute of Soil and Water Conservation, Chinese Academy of Sciences and Ministry of Water Resources, Yangling, Shaanxi 712100, China
  • 3Key Laboratory of Agricultural Soil and Water Engineering in Arid and Semiarid Areas, Ministry of Education, Northwest A & F University, Yangling, Shaanxi 712100, China
  • 4College of Hydrology and Water Resources, Hohai University, Nanjing, Jiangsu 210098, China
  • *These authors contributed equally to this work.

Abstract. Fresh water is consumed during agricultural production. With the shortage of water resources, assessing the water use efficiency is crucial to effectively manage agricultural water resources. The water footprint is an improved index for water use evaluation, and it can reflect the quantity and types of water usage during crop growth. This study aims to establish a method for calculating the regional-scale water footprint of crop production based on hydrological processes, and the water footprint is quantified in terms of blue and green water. This method analyses the water-use process during the growth of crops, which includes irrigation, precipitation, groundwater, evapotranspiration, and drainage, and it ensures a more credible evaluation of water use. As illustrated by the case of the Hetao irrigation district (HID), China, the water footprint of wheat, corn and sunflowers were calculated using this method. The results show that canal water loss and evapotranspiration were responsible for most of the water consumption and accounted for 47.9% and 41.8% of the total consumption, respectively. The total water footprint of wheat, corn and sunflowers were 1380–2888, 942–1774 and 2095–4855m3t−1, respectively, and the blue footprint accounts for more than 86%. The spatial distribution pattern of the green, blue and total water footprints for the three crops demonstrated that higher values occurred in the eastern part of the HID, which had more precipitation and was further away from the irrigation gate. This study offers a vital reference for improving the method used to calculate the crop water footprint.

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At present, the water footprint calculated by the quantitative method of crop production water footprint is only a field-scale water footprint, which does not contain all the water consumption of the crop growth process, so its calculated crop production water footprint is incomplete. In this study, the hydrological model SWAT was used to analyze the real water consumption in the course of crop growth, so that the actual water consumption of the crops could be more accurately reflected.
At present, the water footprint calculated by the quantitative method of crop production water...