Impacts of Change in Irrigation Water Availability on Food Production in the Yellow River Basin under Climate Change

Monday, 15 December 2014
Yuan Yuan Yin and Qiuhong Tang, IGSNRR Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing, China
Approximately 9 percent of China’s population and 17 percent of its agricultural area are settled in the Yellow River Basins. Irrigation, which plays an important role in agricultural production, occupies the largest share of human consumptive water use in the basin. Given increasing water demands, the basin faces acute water scarcity. Previous studies have suggested that decrease in irrigation water availability under climate change might have an overall adverse impact on the food production of the basin. The timing and area that would face severe water stress are yet to be identified. We used a land surface hydrological model forced with the bias-corrected climatic variables from 5 climate models under 4 Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) to estimate total water availability in the sub-basins of the Yellow River basin. The future socioeconomic conditions, the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs), were used to estimate the water requirement in the nonagricultural water use sectors. The irrigation water availability was estimated from the total water availability and nonagricultural water use, and the irrigation water demands were estimated based on the current irrigation project efficiencies. The timing and area of irrigation water shortage were shown and the implication of change in irrigation water availability on food production was assessed. The results show that the sub-basins with high population density and gross domestic product (GDP) are likely to confront severe water stress and reduction in food production earlier because irrigation water was to be appropriated by the rapid increase in nonagricultural water use sectors. The study stresses the need for adaptive management of water to balance agriculture and nonagricultural demands in northern China.