Irrigation evaluation based on performance analysis and water accounting at the Bear River Irrigation Project (U.S.A.)

S. Lecina, C. M.U. Neale, G. P. Merkley, C. A.C. Dos Santos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The purpose of this work is to contribute to the development of a combined approach to evaluate irrigated areas based on: (1) irrigation performance analysis intended to assess the productive impacts of irrigation practices and infrastructures, and (2) water accounting focused on the hydrological impacts of water use. Ador-Simulation, a combined model that simulates irrigation, water delivery, and crop growth and production was applied in a surface irrigated area (1213ha) located in the Bear River Irrigation Project, Utah, U.S.A.. A soil survey, a campaign of on-farm irrigation evaluations and an analysis of the database from the Bear River Canal Company and other resources were performed in order to obtain the data required to simulate the water flows of the study area in 2008. Net land productivity (581US$ha-1) was 20% lower than the potential value, whereas on-farm irrigation efficiency (IE) averaged only 60%. According to the water accounting, water use amounted to 14.24Mm3, 86% of which was consumed through evapotranspiration or otherwise non-recoverable. Gross water productivity over depleted water reached 0.132US$m-3. In addition, two strategies for increasing farm productivity were analyzed. These strategies intended to improve water management and infrastructures raised on-farm IE to 90% reducing the gap between current and potential productivities by about 50%. Water diverted to the project was reduced by 2.64Mm3. An analysis based on IE could lead to think that this volume would be saved. However, the water accounting showed that actually only 0.91Mm3 would be available for alternative uses. These results provide insights to support the decision-making processes of farmers, water user associations, river basin authorities and policy makers. Water accounting overcomes the limitations and hydrological misunderstandings of traditional analysis based on irrigation efficiency to assess irrigated areas in the context of water scarcity and competitive agricultural markets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1349-1363
Number of pages15
JournalAgricultural Water Management
Issue number9
StatePublished - Jul 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Land productivity
  • Surface irrigation
  • Water accounting
  • Water balance
  • Water consumption
  • Water depletion
  • Water management
  • Water productivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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