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Congress: 2008
Author(s): Consuelo Varela-Ortega, Chris Swartz, Tom Downing, Irene Blanco
Dr Consuelo Varela-Ortega is professor at the Department of Agricultural Economics, Polytechnic University of Madrid. Postal address: Departamento de economía y ciencias sociales agrarias. ETSI Agrónomos. Avda. Ciudad universitaria s/n. 28040, Madrid, Spa

Keyword(s): Water policies, irrigation, agricultural policies, mathematical programming model, hydrology models.
AbstractIn the Mediterranean basin, irrigation agriculture is a key sector for the economy but it consumes a large proportion of all available water resources in countries where water is scarce which is producing an ever-mounting depletion of water resources and degradation of valuable aquatic ecosystems. In southern countries of the EU competing uses of water for agricultural production and for providing ecosystem services is calling for a revision of former water policies and for an integration of agricultural policies and water policies not only at EU level but also at national and regional levels. This research focuses on the comparative effects of water polices and agricultural policies aiming to conserve water resources in an area of Spain’s southern central plateau in the region of Castilla-La Mancha. In this area, agricultural production is dependent solely on groundwater and, as a consequence of lucrative CAP production- related payments, water abstractions have exceeded the recharge capacity of the aquifer. Excessive water abstraction and the induced over-exploitation of the aquifer have lead to long-lasting social and political conflicts as well as acute environmental concerns due to the derived degradation of protected natural wetlands of high ecological value associated to the aquifer. Regional, National and European policies have been implemented with the purpose of solving these conflicts, but the solution has not been found so far. Based on an integrated vision of water resources management, the methodology of this study consists in the integration of an agro-economic model and a hydrology model. The economic model is a farm-level mathematical programming model of constrained maximization that simulates farmers’ behavior confronted to different policy scenarios. The hydrology model permits to up-scale the results of the MPM to the basin’s level to assess the effects on the aquifer of the selected policies. Based on an ample field work several policy scenarios have been chosen and simulated to analyze the impacts that the different policy options would have on the different components of the system. Results of the integrated economic and hydrology models, show that all current water conservation policies applied in the area (Upper Guadiana basin), even when they can contribute to an important reduction in water consumption, will not be able to attain the recovery of the aquifer unless other additional measures, aiming to reduce water abstractions, are not put into practice. We can also conclude that more integrated application of water policies and agricultural policies is a key issue to meet the dual objective of maintaining farming activity and protecting the wetland ecosystems. The field work carried out in the area, as well as subsequent meetings with the relevant stakeholders, indicate that water conservation policies and agricultural policies in the new EU context of the WFD and The CAP need to be implemented in a coordinated way and with a larger public participation that will ensure an effective and socially acceptable water resources management.
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