Morocco Irrigation Efficiencies Improvements: Riverside Technology, Inc.

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Morocco’s irrigation systems and water-allocation methods. Eighty-five percent of the water in Morocco is consumed by irrigated agriculture. Increases in population and drought seasons have made it difficult for Morocco to use reservoirs and irrigation infrastructure. Groundwater has been relied on extensively by irrigators to meet their water demand. The increase in groundwater pumping leads to a rapid decrease of the water tables.

Authors: Larisa Serbina and Holly Miller

Morocco’s irrigation systems and water-allocation methods. Eighty-five percent of the water in Morocco is consumed by irrigated agriculture. Increases in population and drought seasons have made it difficult for Morocco to use reservoirs and irrigation infrastructure. Groundwater has been relied on extensively by irrigators to meet their water demand. The increase in groundwater pumping leads to a rapid decrease of the water tables. With current irrigation demands depleting surface and groundwater supplies, immediate action in helping irrigators manage water supply is becoming necessary in Morocco.

Monthly actual evapotranspiration (red is low evapotranspiration and blue is high evapotranspiration).

Monthly actual evapotranspiration (red is low evapotranspiration and blue is high evapotranspiration) from September, 2006, to August, 2007 for Tadla region, Morocco. Courtesy of Riverside Technology, inc.

Since measurements of groundwater extraction for irrigation use rarely exist, a new tool was developed by Riverside to calculate current estimates of groundwater use. Landsat imagery and the METRIC model were used to quantify irrigation consumptive use and to map water distribution (fig. 1). These maps and measurements, combined with records on surface water delivery, allowed modelers to estimate the amount of ground water used for irrigation (fig. 2). Landsat imagery was selected due to its spatial resolution and thermal band availability. During this process, results have shown the extensive use of groundwater, much of which is unregulated throughout the pilot agricultural study areas.

Water balance tool results using evapotranspiration results as input. Courtesy of Riverside Technology, inc.

Water balance tool results using evapotranspiration results as input. Courtesy of Riverside Technology, inc. (ET, evapotranspiration)

Information from the project has supported additional work performed by Riverside with USAID funding to develop improvements in irrigation scheduling based on specific crop water demands. New irrigation scheduling has the potential to motivate irrigation technology upgrades, from flood to sprinkler or drip irrigation. Efficiency and precision in irrigation improves crop productivity per unit of water used, which increases financial return from water (O’Connell, 2011). Optimizing production conditions has the potential to help growers, local industry, and the regional economy to prosper. The optimization of water usage decreases the amount of water pumped from the ground or diverted from surface based sources, leaving more water in the system for immediate uses (Jason Polly, Riverside Technology, inc., oral commun. and written commun., 2013).

References:

  • Martin, T., and Polly, J., 2010, Satellite Based Evapotranspiration Mapping and Water Use in Irrigation Systems of Morocco. Riverside Technology, inc. U.S, Geo Observateur #19, ISSN 113-4410.
  • O’Connell, M.G., 2011, Satellite based yield-water use relationships of perennial horticultural crops: Victoria, Australia, The University of Melbourne, Ph.D. Thesis, 164 p.
  • Polly, Jason. GIS and Remote Sensing Analyst. Riverside Technologies, inc. Fort Collins, CO.

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