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J Environ Manage. 2011 Mar;92(3):982-93. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2010.11.005. Epub 2010 Dec 15.

Prospective changes in irrigation water requirements caused by agricultural expansion and climate changes in the eastern arc mountains of Kenya.

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Department of Geosciences and Geography, University of Helsinki, Gustaf Hällströmin katu 2, 00014 Helsinki, Finland.


Water resources and land use are closely linked with each other and with regional climate, assembling a very complex system. The understanding of the interconnecting relations involved in this system is an essential step for elaborating public policies that can effectively lead to the sustainable use of water resources. In this study, an integrated modelling framework was assembled in order to investigate potential impacts of agricultural expansion and climate changes on Irrigation Water Requirements (IWR) in the Taita Hills, Kenya. The framework comprised a land use change simulation model, a reference evapotranspiration model and synthetic precipitation datasets generated through a Monte Carlo simulation. In order to generate plausible climate change scenarios, outputs from General Climate Models were used as reference to perturbing the Monte Carlo simulations. The results indicate that throughout the next 20 years the low availability of arable lands in the hills will drive agricultural expansion to areas with higher IWR in the foothills. If current trends persist, agricultural areas will occupy roughly 60% of the study area by 2030. This expansion will increase by approximately 40% the annual water volume necessary for irrigation. Climate change may slightly decrease crops' IWR in April and November by 2030, while in May a small increase will likely be observed. The integrated assessment of these environmental changes allowed a clear identification of priority regions for land use allocation policies and water resources management.

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