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Special Issue "Sustainable Irrigation for the Future: Addressing the Challenges to Improved Water Use Efficiency"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Use of the Environment and Resources".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 28 February 2018

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. David Horne

Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
Website | E-Mail
Interests: irrigation management; the environmental impacts of landuse

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Despite, or perhaps because of, it many advantages, agricultural irrigation faces a number of major challenges. Firstly, there is uncertainty around the adequacy of water reserves or sources. The demands placed on the world’s fresh water resources threaten to outstrip supply. In many countries, irrigation to agricultural landscapes is the single largest use of freshwater. Secondly, in addition to its effects on water quantity, irrigation often adversely impacts water quality, as nutrient leaching tends to increase under more intensive production systems, which can be established once limitations imposed by soil moisture stress are removed. Thirdly, the financial costs of irrigation schemes and systems, and the day-to-day expenses associated with running and managing these systems, is also increasing. Climate change heightens both of these challenges and the importance of irrigation.

Governments, their regulating arms, consumers, and society in general, is demanding that famers produce more from less irrigation water, while also reducing their environmental footprints. Given the costs associated with irrigation, farmers are also interested in extracting more value from irrigation. Metrics, such as irrigation efficiency, as it is variously defined, and the water footprint are being used to guide the search for more sustainable irrigation practices.

Sustainable irrigation, in all that this entails, is dependent on marked improvements in water use efficiency from the point of water extraction through to the harvesting of saleable produce. Fortunately, there are a number of emerging technologies that hold significant promise for the future. Many of these developments can be brought under the rubric of precision irrigation, which marries the ability to manipulate irrigation hardware with the increased ability to map variation in soil type and sense the real-time soil moisture content and water requirements of crops.

Prof. Dr. David Horne
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • sustainable irrigation
  • water quatity
  • water quality
  • water use efficiency
  • soil moisture
  • precision agriculture
  • climate change

Published Papers (12 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle Spatially Explicit Assessment of Agricultural Water Equilibrium in the Korean Peninsula
Sustainability 2018, 10(1), 201; doi:10.3390/su10010201
Received: 21 November 2017 / Revised: 7 January 2018 / Accepted: 10 January 2018 / Published: 15 January 2018
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Abstract
In agriculture, balancing water use and retention is an issue dealt with in most regions and for many crops. In this study, we suggest agricultural water equilibrium (AWE) as a new concept that can facilitate a spatially explicit management of agricultural water. This
[...] Read more.
In agriculture, balancing water use and retention is an issue dealt with in most regions and for many crops. In this study, we suggest agricultural water equilibrium (AWE) as a new concept that can facilitate a spatially explicit management of agricultural water. This concept is based on the principle of supply and demand of agricultural water, where the virtual water content of crops (VWC) can be defined as the demand, and cropland water budget (CWB) as the supply. For assessing the AWE of the Korean Peninsula, we quantified the CWB based on the hydrological cycle and the VWC of rice, a key crop in the Peninsula. Five factors, namely crop yield, growing season evapotranspiration, annual evapotranspiration, runoff, and annual precipitation, were used to assess the AWE, of which the first four were estimated using the spatially explicit large-scale crop model, Geographical Information System (GIS)-based Environmental Policy Integrated Climate (GEPIC). The CWB and VWC were calculated for a period of three decades, and the AWE was computed by deducting the VWC from the CWB. Our results show a latitudinal difference across the Korean Peninsula. On analyzing the AWE of the major river basins, we found most basins in North Korea showed very low values inferring unsustainable overconsumption of water. The latitudinal difference in AWE is a reflectance of the latitudinal changes in the VWC and CWB. This can be explained by decoupling the demand and supply of agricultural water. Although the AWE values presented in this study were not absolute, the values were sufficient to explain the latitudinal change, and the demand and supply of agricultural water, and establish the usefulness of the indicator. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Scale Effects of Water Saving on Irrigation Efficiency: Case Study of a Rice-Based Groundwater Irrigation System on the Sanjiang Plain, Northeast China
Sustainability 2018, 10(1), 47; doi:10.3390/su10010047
Received: 9 November 2017 / Revised: 14 December 2017 / Accepted: 20 December 2017 / Published: 25 December 2017
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Abstract
This research analyzed the scale effect of water saving in Bielahonghe (BLH) Basin, a rice-cultivating district on the Sanjiang Plain, Northeast China. Water budgets with different surface irrigation water supply ratios and water-saving measures were simulated with a semi-distributed water balance model. PF
[...] Read more.
This research analyzed the scale effect of water saving in Bielahonghe (BLH) Basin, a rice-cultivating district on the Sanjiang Plain, Northeast China. Water budgets with different surface irrigation water supply ratios and water-saving measures were simulated with a semi-distributed water balance model. PFnws, representing the ratio of rice evapotranspiration to net water supply (the total amount of irrigation and precipitation minus the amount of water reused), was employed to assess the water use efficiency. Seven spatial scales (noted from S1 to S7), ranging from a single field (317.87 ha) to the whole basin (about 100,800 ha) were determined. PFnws values were quantified across scales and several water-saving measures, including water-saving irrigation regimes, canal lining, and a reduction of the surface water supply ratio (SWSR). The results indicated that PFnws increased with scale and could be calculated by a fitted power function (PFnws = 0.736Area0.033, R2 = 0.58). Furthermore, PFnws increased most prominently when the scale increased from S1 to S2. The water-saving irrigation regime (WSIR) had the most substantial water-saving effect (WSE) at S1. Specifically, PFnws improved by 21.2% at S1 when high-intensity WSIR was applied. Additionally, the WSE values of S3 and S5 were slightly higher than at other scales when the branch canal water delivery coefficient increased from 0.65 to 0.80 through canal lining. Furthermore, the PFnws at each scale varied with SWSR. Specifically, PFnws from S3 to S7 improved as SWSR decreased from 0.4 to 0.3 but remained approximately constant when SWSR decreased from 0.3 to 0. Full article
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Open AccessArticle China’s Water-Saving Irrigation Management System: Policy, Implementation, and Challenge
Sustainability 2017, 9(12), 2339; doi:10.3390/su9122339
Received: 1 November 2017 / Revised: 7 December 2017 / Accepted: 13 December 2017 / Published: 15 December 2017
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Abstract
In response to the increased competition for water, the Chinese government has determined to promote water-saving irrigation (WSI) followed by a range of institutional arrangements and policy goals. Three management mechanisms are analyzed in this study in terms of effectiveness, including the top-down
[...] Read more.
In response to the increased competition for water, the Chinese government has determined to promote water-saving irrigation (WSI) followed by a range of institutional arrangements and policy goals. Three management mechanisms are analyzed in this study in terms of effectiveness, including the top-down regulation mechanism using direct control or economic instruments, the design-bid funding mechanism mobilizing local governments by competitive grants program, and the bottom-up participation mechanism transferring more irrigation management responsibilities to end-users. Although the WSI management has achieved notable improvements by the combination of different mechanisms, conflicts among different policy goals, uneven distribution of financial resources, and insufficient participation from water users caused the difficulty in aligning stakeholders’ incentives. Approaches are needed to enable sustainable management by coordinating incentives from different stakeholders in the management, as well as incorporating end water users to assist decision-making. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Water Authorities’ Pricing Strategies to Recover Supply Costs in the Absence of Water Metering for Irrigated Agriculture
Sustainability 2017, 9(12), 2210; doi:10.3390/su9122210
Received: 31 October 2017 / Revised: 22 November 2017 / Accepted: 27 November 2017 / Published: 30 November 2017
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Abstract
Most of the irrigated agricultural regions in Europe are supplied by surface irrigation networks managed by local water authorities (WAs). Under such conditions, WAs are not able to fully monitor water usage and farmers have an information advantage vis-a-vis the WA. This results
[...] Read more.
Most of the irrigated agricultural regions in Europe are supplied by surface irrigation networks managed by local water authorities (WAs). Under such conditions, WAs are not able to fully monitor water usage and farmers have an information advantage vis-a-vis the WA. This results in the water authority suffering ‘pricing failure’ if it decides to apply an incentive pricing strategy (tariffs proportional to the alleged water uses). Indeed, farmers could exploit their information advantage by behaving in an opportunistic manner, withdrawing more water than declared, and ultimately paying less than they should. This situation could also undermine the efficacy and the efficiency of the WA incentive pricing strategies. This paper analyses incentive water pricing schemes under asymmetric information by the means of a Principal-Agent model. The Agency problem between the WA and farmers is addressed by introducing a monitoring strategy that would enable the WA to detect farms action. In doing so, we compare incentive strategies with flat rate water pricing and investigate under what conditions the WA might provide/not provide incentive water pricing in the absence of water metering. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Deficit Irrigation and Partial Root-Zone Drying Techniques in Processing Tomato Cultivated under Mediterranean Climate Conditions
Sustainability 2017, 9(12), 2197; doi:10.3390/su9122197
Received: 26 October 2017 / Revised: 15 November 2017 / Accepted: 27 November 2017 / Published: 28 November 2017
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Abstract
Due to climate change, the application of water saving strategies is of particular interest. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of deficit irrigation (DI) and partial root-zone drying (PRD) techniques on the crop water stress index (CWSI), water use
[...] Read more.
Due to climate change, the application of water saving strategies is of particular interest. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of deficit irrigation (DI) and partial root-zone drying (PRD) techniques on the crop water stress index (CWSI), water use efficiency (WUE), and quality parameters in processing tomatoes grown in open field conditions in a Mediterranean climate. Two cultivars were grown for two growing seasons under four irrigation regimes as follows: (i) IR100: full irrigation by restoring 100% of the maximum tomato evapotranspiration (ETc); (ii) IR70DI: 70% of the amount of water given to the IR100; (iii) IR70PRD: 70% of the amount of water given to the IR100 by applying partial root-zone drying and (iv) IR0: irrigation only at transplanting and during fertigation. During the flowering period, the first growing season was characterized by an absence of rainfall and by higher temperatures also showing a higher CWSI. Despite, under IR70PRD, the CWSI was significantly higher than under IR70DI, the marketable yield obtained was significantly higher. Both IR70DI and IR70PRD regimes received approximately 24% less water than IR100, but the yield reduction with relation to the optimum regime was equal to 16.2% under IR70DI, and only 7.6% under IR70PRD. The WUE increment of IR70PRD with respect to IR100 was equal to 27% in the first growing season and to 17% in the second one, showing that the positive effect of PRD on the WUE is more evident in the more stressed year. Finally, the results from the principal component analysis (PCA) showed that the two cultivars had different qualitative responses in the two extreme regimes (IR100 and IR0) but not under PRD and DI regimes. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Assessing the Reliability of Thermal and Optical Imaging Techniques for Detecting Crop Water Status under Different Nitrogen Levels
Sustainability 2017, 9(9), 1548; doi:10.3390/su9091548
Received: 10 May 2017 / Revised: 2 August 2017 / Accepted: 22 August 2017 / Published: 30 August 2017
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Abstract
Efficient management of irrigation water is fundamental in agriculture to reduce the environmental impacts and to increase the sustainability of crop production. The availability of adequate tools and methodologies to easily identify the crop water status in operating conditions is therefore crucial. This
[...] Read more.
Efficient management of irrigation water is fundamental in agriculture to reduce the environmental impacts and to increase the sustainability of crop production. The availability of adequate tools and methodologies to easily identify the crop water status in operating conditions is therefore crucial. This work aimed to assess the reliability of indices derived from imaging techniques—thermal indices (Ig (stomatal conductance index) and CWSI (Crop Water Stress Index)) and optical indices (NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) and PRI (Photochemical Reflectance Index))—as operational tools to detect the crop water status, regardless the eventual presence of nitrogen stress. In particular, two separate experiments were carried out in a greenhouse, on two spinach varieties (Verdi F1 and SV2157VB), with different microclimatic conditions and under different levels of water and nitrogen application. Statistical analysis based on ANOVA test was carried out to assess the independence of thermal and optical indices from the crop nitrogen status. These imaging indices were successively compared through correlation analysis with reference destructive and non-destructive measurements of crop water status (stomatal conductance, chlorophyll a fluorescence, and leaf and soil water content), and linear regression models of thermal and optical indices versus reference measurements were calibrated. All models were significant (Fisher p-value lower than 0.05), and the highest R2 values (greater than 0.6) were found for the regression models between CWSI and the soil water content, NDVI and the leaf water content, and PRI and the stomatal conductance. Further analysis showed that imaging indices acquired by thermal cameras (especially CWSI) can be used as operational tools to detect the crop water status, since no dependence on plant nitrogen conditions was observed, even when the soil water depletion was very limited. Our results confirmed that imaging indices such as CWSI, NDVI and PRI can be used as operational tools to predict soil water status and to detect drought stress under different soil nitrogen conditions. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Irrigation-Induced Changes in Evapotranspiration Demand of Awati Irrigation District, Northwest China: Weakening the Effects of Water Saving?
Sustainability 2017, 9(9), 1531; doi:10.3390/su9091531
Received: 1 June 2017 / Revised: 22 August 2017 / Accepted: 24 August 2017 / Published: 28 August 2017
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Abstract
The evapotranspiration demand of the Awati irrigation district has changed with irrigation development since 1980. During the first period of traditional irrigation expansion from 1980 to 1997, reference crop evapotranspiration (ET0) decreased as irrigation intensity increased. Since the second period
[...] Read more.
The evapotranspiration demand of the Awati irrigation district has changed with irrigation development since 1980. During the first period of traditional irrigation expansion from 1980 to 1997, reference crop evapotranspiration (ET0) decreased as irrigation intensity increased. Since the second period of water-saving irrigation extension began in 1998, the gross irrigation quota has decreased as the water use efficiency improved, whereas ET0 has been increasing accordingly. The increasing evapotranspiration demand has enlarged the irrigation water requirement per unit area, which partly weakens the effects of water-saving irrigation. Findings show that irrigation-induced changes in evapotranspiration demand should be considered when evaluating the performance of water-saving technologies in irrigation districts in arid areas. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Influencing Factors of the Adoption of Agricultural Irrigation Technologies and the Economic Returns: A Case Study in Chaiyaphum Province, Thailand
Sustainability 2017, 9(9), 1524; doi:10.3390/su9091524
Received: 5 June 2017 / Revised: 10 August 2017 / Accepted: 23 August 2017 / Published: 27 August 2017
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (1573 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This empirical research investigates the factors influencing the adoption of three irrigation technologies using a probit statistical model: water wheel (WW), water pump (WP), and weir (WR) irrigation technologies as well as their economic returns per unit of rice cultivated area. The influencing
[...] Read more.
This empirical research investigates the factors influencing the adoption of three irrigation technologies using a probit statistical model: water wheel (WW), water pump (WP), and weir (WR) irrigation technologies as well as their economic returns per unit of rice cultivated area. The influencing factors were categorized into demographic, socioeconomic, topographical, institutional, and attitudinal factor groups by 207 rice-growers in the Chaiyaphum province in northeastern Thailand. The results revealed that the land holding size, farm income, and water use association (WUA) membership factors were highly positively associated with the WW adoption. Meanwhile, age, farm income, skills training, and WUA membership were negatively correlated with the WP adoption. Nevertheless, proximity to a water source and upstream farmland location were positively correlated with the WP adoption. The WR adoption was positively associated with age but negatively correlated with the land holding size, upstream farmland location, and group participation factors. The cost–benefit analysis indicated that the WW irrigation scheme generated the highest economic return with the benefit-to-cost ratio schemes. The findings suggest that the WW irrigation technology would be deployed in the water management of other agricultural areas in the region to overcome the unfavorable geography and alleviate the local farmers’ disadvantageous economic conditions. Full article
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Open AccessArticle The Impact of Pricing Policies on Irrigation Water for Agro-Food Farms in Ecuador
Sustainability 2017, 9(9), 1515; doi:10.3390/su9091515
Received: 8 May 2017 / Revised: 5 August 2017 / Accepted: 22 August 2017 / Published: 25 August 2017
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Abstract
The institutional reform of the State established in Ecuador during the last decade has aimed at regaining control of specific sectors such as the consumptive use of water. Since 2014, regulation, consumption, and use of water, especially in agriculture, have been analyzed through
[...] Read more.
The institutional reform of the State established in Ecuador during the last decade has aimed at regaining control of specific sectors such as the consumptive use of water. Since 2014, regulation, consumption, and use of water, especially in agriculture, have been analyzed through policies and fiscal instruments. This research presents itself in the context of the simulation of scenarios using positive mathematical programming, to analyze the economic impact of pricing policies on agro-food farms. Policies of fixed costs, water blocks, and volumetric prices are evaluated. The results show that the existing fixed costs do not reduce water consumption. In contrast, the scenarios of water blocks and volumetric prices impact on the behavior of farmers. The tendency of water consumption to the application of volumetric prices demonstrates that banana farms have a greater tolerance to the increase of water costs. On the other hand, the response to an increase in cost in the case of cacao, sugar cane, and rice depends on the productivity of farmers. The negative effects can lead to the abandonment of agriculture. Thus, volumetric policies are more efficient in reducing water consumption as well as in recovering the costs of the irrigation system. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Sustainability Implications of Deficit Irrigation in a Mature Water Economy: A Case Study in Southern Spain
Sustainability 2017, 9(7), 1144; doi:10.3390/su9071144
Received: 5 May 2017 / Revised: 8 June 2017 / Accepted: 26 June 2017 / Published: 29 June 2017
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (858 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Deficit irrigation (DI) is an agricultural practice in which the volume of irrigation water applied during the crop cycle is below the irrigation requirements for maximum production, the aim of which is to increase irrigation water productivity. Most research on this technique has
[...] Read more.
Deficit irrigation (DI) is an agricultural practice in which the volume of irrigation water applied during the crop cycle is below the irrigation requirements for maximum production, the aim of which is to increase irrigation water productivity. Most research on this technique has focused on agronomic strategies while the economic and environmental consequences have received little attention. This study aims to shed some light on this matter and presents preliminary results regarding the implications of DI with respect to the sustainable use of water resources. The analysis is based on the DPSIR analytical framework (Driving force/Pressure/State/Impact/Response) and the microeconomics of DI. The case study focuses on intensive olive groves in the Guadalquivir river basin in Southern Spain (where olive cultivation accounts for 50% of the total irrigated area). The analysis shows that the widespread use of DI practices, which is the farmers’ response to a decreasing net water supply and falling farm incomes (driving force) in the context of a mature water economy, may help to break the DPSIR chain of causality, provided that there are restrictions on any expansion in irrigated area. They can, thus, play a role in achieving sustainable water use. Conversely, demand and supply (regulator) responses involving raising the price of water would lead to higher pressures on the resource and represent a negative driving force in our DPSIR model. Full article
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Review

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Open AccessReview Forage Options for Dairy Farms with Reduced Water Availability in the Southern Murray Darling Basin of Australia
Sustainability 2017, 9(12), 2369; doi:10.3390/su9122369
Received: 26 October 2017 / Revised: 1 December 2017 / Accepted: 12 December 2017 / Published: 18 December 2017
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Abstract
The dairy industry in the southern Murray Darling Basin region of Australia is a major consumer of irrigation water because rainfall is low relative to evapotranspiration and the industrys relies heavily on irrigated temperate pastures and fodder crops. Water reforms, and potential climate
[...] Read more.
The dairy industry in the southern Murray Darling Basin region of Australia is a major consumer of irrigation water because rainfall is low relative to evapotranspiration and the industrys relies heavily on irrigated temperate pastures and fodder crops. Water reforms, and potential climate change scenarios for this region suggest that there will be an overall decline in rainfall and water available for irrigation in the future. For the irrigated dairy industry to remain economically viable, there is a need for dairy farmers to improve the water productivity (WP) of their forage systems and to be able to respond to year-to-year, and within year, variation in water availability. Researchers and dairy farmers are evaluating strategies to increase WP. These include: (i) selecting better-adapted species for current and predicted climatic conditions; (ii) using species that can survive and still be productive under reduced irrigation and then recover when full irrigation is restored; (iii) modifying irrigation strategies to reduce water use whilst maintaining WP; and (iv) grazing management strategies that facilitate the survival during, and recovery after, periods of moisture stress. This review will examine these strategies and discusses their potential to optimise forage production from irrigation water inputs so that the dairy industry in the southern Murray Darling Basin remains viable in the future. Full article
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Open AccessReview Integral Management of Irrigation Water in Intensive Horticultural Systems of Almería
Sustainability 2017, 9(12), 2271; doi:10.3390/su9122271
Received: 30 October 2017 / Revised: 1 December 2017 / Accepted: 1 December 2017 / Published: 7 December 2017
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Abstract
The development of intensive horticulture in Almería, with a huge increase in greenhouse surface area, is related to three essential factors: climatic characteristics, groundwater use and mulching sandy soil. The purpose of the present paper is to draw a picture of the integral
[...] Read more.
The development of intensive horticulture in Almería, with a huge increase in greenhouse surface area, is related to three essential factors: climatic characteristics, groundwater use and mulching sandy soil. The purpose of the present paper is to draw a picture of the integral management of water irrigation in the intensive horticultural systems in the region, by identifying the most significant water resource contributions and alternative water resources. Results indicate that the use of groundwater for the irrigation of horticultural crops in the greenhouses presents a high degree of overexploitation of the aquifers, but due to the continuous search for alternative water resources, such as desalinated and reclaimed water, as well as in-depth knowledge of the integral management of water irrigation through automated fertigation and localized irrigation systems, the current status of the water resources could be sustainable. Moreover, being conscious of the pollution generated by agricultural leachates, the horticultural system of Almería is implementing complementary sustainable systems such as recirculation, cascade cropping systems and phytodepuration for the reuse of the leachate. Considering all these factors, it can be concluded that the intensive horticultural system is on the right path towards respecting the environment and being sustainable in terms of water use. Full article
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