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.
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