Modern Irrigation uses less water but more energy

June 2008
The proportion of water used for irrigated agriculture in Spain has fallen in recent years from 80% to 65%. In some regions the area of irrigated land has increased, but not in the Valencian Community, where it has fallen.

The reduction in water consumption is based on the use of new technologies, especially drip irrigation, but this has meant an increase in energy consumption, since such technologies require pumped water rather than the old-fashioned gravity feed. The drip water needs to be filtered to avoid blockages, pumped up slopes and fertiliser needs to be injected.

There will be an increase in the cost of electricity for irrigators as from July 1st because of the removal of special rates. The Government speaks of rises of 6% - 7% while the irrigators talk of between 30% and 100%

In the Comunidad Valenciana's agricultural crops (about one million tons), just over one third of the land area, about 350,000 hectares, has irrigation rights. At present just under 300,000 hectares are irrigated and nearly 200,000 of these are citrus (two thirds of the entire Spanish area for citrus). The rest of the area consists of unconverted land and buildings and infrastructure.

40% of the irrigation water in the Comunidad Valenciana comes from ground water. Water is pumped by electrical submersible pumps from lined boreholes of 30-50cm diameter. This type of irrigation, common in orange groves and horticulture tends to be overlooked by public administrations.

Increases in the cost of electricity will also affect this type of irrigation. Also installations have been subject to the theft of copper and other metals from the electrical machinery.

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