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An index-based approach for the sustainability assessment of irrigation practice based on the water-energy-food nexus framework.
Rossella de Vito, Ivan Portoghese, Alessandro Pagano, Umberto Fratino, Michele Vurro.
Advances in Water Resources, 2017


Increasing pressure affects water resources, especially in the agricultural sector, with cascading impacts on energy consumption. This is particularly relevant in the Mediterranean area, showing significant water scarcity problems, further exacerbated by the crucial economic role of agricultural production. Assessing the sustainability of water resource use is thus essential to preserving ecosystems and maintaining high levels of agricultural productivity. This paper proposes an integrated methodology based on the Water-Energy-Food Nexus to evaluate the multi-dimensional implications of irrigation practices. Three different indices are introduced, based on an analysis of the most influential factors. The methodology is then implemented in a catchment located in Puglia (Italy) and a comparative analysis of the three indices is presented. The results mainly highlight that economic land productivity is a key driver of irrigated agriculture, and that groundwater is highly affordable compared to surface water, thus being often dangerously perceived as freely available.