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Sci Total Environ. 2018 Mar;616-617:208-222. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.11.004. Epub 2017 Nov 16.

Modeling future water footprint of barley production in Alberta, Canada: Implications for water use and yields to 2064.

Author information

1
Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Faculty of Science, University of Alberta, 1-26, Earth Sciences Building, Edmonton, T6G 2E3, Alberta, Canada. Electronic address: masud@ualberta.ca.
2
Science and Technology Branch, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Lethbridge Research and Development Centre, 5403-1 Avenue South, P.O. Box 3000, Lethbridge, T1J 4B1, Alberta, Canada.
3
Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Faculty of Science, University of Alberta, 1-26, Earth Sciences Building, Edmonton, T6G 2E3, Alberta, Canada.

Abstract

Despite the perception of being one of the most agriculturally productive regions globally, crop production in Alberta, a western province of Canada, is strongly dependent on highly variable climate and water resources. We developed agro-hydrological models to assess the water footprint (WF) of barley by simulating future crop yield (Y) and consumptive water use (CWU) within the agricultural region of Alberta. The Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) was used to develop rainfed and irrigated barley Y simulation models adapted to sixty-seven and eleven counties, respectively through extensive calibration, validation, sensitivity, and uncertainty analysis. Eighteen downscaled climate projections from nine General Circulation Models (GCMs) under the Representative Concentration Pathways 2.6 and 8.5 for the 2040-2064 period were incorporated into the calibrated SWAT model. Based on the ensemble of GCMs, rainfed barley yield is projected to increase while irrigated barley is projected to remain unchanged in Alberta. Results revealed a considerable decrease (maximum 60%) in WF to 2064 relative to the simulated baseline 1985-2009 WF. Less water will also be required to produce barley in northern Alberta (rainfed barley) than southern Alberta (irrigated barley) due to reduced water consumption. The modeled WF data adjusted for water stress conditions and found a remarkable change (increase/decrease) in the irrigated counties. Overall, the research framework and the locally adapted regional model results will facilitate the development of future water policies in support of better climate adaptation strategies by providing improved WF projections.

KEYWORDS:

Blue and green water footprint; Climate change; Crop modeling; Uncertainty prediction; Water stress

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