Increasing drought Risk with Global Warming in Europe

Increased drought risk associated with global warming and impacts on water resources are among the main concerns among agrometeorologists in Europe (Fig. 8.1). Several recent studies highlight the challenges that result from changes in water availability and water quality (EEA 2004, IPCC 2001, IPCC 2007, Schröter et al. 2005, EEA 2005a).

In Europe, large amounts of water are extracted from both surface and groundwater stocks for agriculture every year. For Europe as a whole (including New Member States and Accession Countries) some 38% of the extracted water is used for agricultural purposes. In Malta, Cyprus and Turkey almost 80% of the extract-

Spring A2 mm Spring B2 mm

Spring A2 mm Spring B2 mm

Fig.8.1. Ensemble mean soilmoisture changes in Mediterranean between the periods 1961-1990 and 2070- 2099 in spring and summer under the IPCC SRES A2 and B2 scenarios (PRUDENCE, 2005)

ed water is used for agriculture, in the southwestern countries (Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece) about 46% and in the central and northern countries (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, UK, and Scandinavia), to the contrary, agricultural use of the extracted water is limited to less than 5% (Eisenreich, 2005). By far the largest part of the water used in agriculture is used for irrigation, ttis percentage approaches 100% in the southern European countries, which at the same time have the largest share of irrigated land in Europe. While the expansion of the irrigated areas, mainly in the Mediterranean, has raised concern about the overuse and depletion of water resources in the past, possible changes in climate and weather patterns as a consequence of global warming are at the focus of the discussion now.

Under climate change conditions, it is expected that irrigation water demand will further increase, aggravating the competition with other sectors whose demand is also projected to increase. In addition, an expected lowering of the groundwater table will make irrigation more expensive, which, in turn might have to be limited to cash crops. Extreme weather events such as heat waves will impact on peak irrigation requirements. As the evaporative demand will increase due to higher temperatures, it is expected that capillary rise will increase the salinisation of soils, having a major impact on irrigation management.

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