At this week’s international conference on Integrated Systems Research for Sustainable Intensification in Smallholder Agriculture, Randall Ritzema presented a poster explaining an ‘aqueous productivity’ (AP) water performance indicator that improves productivity estimations for water in integrated systems.
In both dry land areas and humid tropical regions that are characterized by monsoonal climates with pronounced dry seasons, water scarcity can seriously limit agricultural and livestock production; therefore, an important consideration for increasing system productivity in these contexts is how to manage water effectively across wet and dry seasons to maximize dry-season water availability, and efficient use of that water, for crops and livestock.
Systems-level exploration of water allocation and management processes can be focused on smallholder production, e.g. considering how to improve the efficiency of water use for livestock, or could extend to the community or river basin scales, where agricultural demands may compete with other uses for water. At any scale, effective indicators for measuring water performance are needed to guide strategy formulation and water allocation processes. One such indicator that has gained prominence is water productivity (WP), defined as the ‘ratio of the net benefits from crop, forestry, fishery, livestock, and mixed agricultural systems to the amount of water required to produce those benefits’. Though widely implemented, the WP concept encounters significant limitations when applied in systems where water has multiple uses or high levels of re-use. WP is furthermore highly scale-dependent, making comparisons across scales and systems difficult.
This research forwards ‘aqueous productivity’ (AP) as an alternative water performance indicator that addresses the significant limitations in the WP approach and improves productivity estimations for water in integrated systems. AP, similarly to WP, is expressed as a ratio of economic benefit to water volume, but is determined by linking various components within a hydro-economic system via water flow interactions.
The AP conceptual framework and methodology are presented, and an example system illustrates the method’s ability to estimate the spatio-temporal distribution of the productivity of water through a monsoonal system. The utility of the method in assisting water management processes in monsoonal or dry land areas is subsequently considered.
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