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The role of water and energy use in expanding the boundaries of irrigated agriculture in the Berrechid plain of Morocco

Ouassissou R., Lacombe G., Kuper M., Hammani A., El Amrani M.. 2022. Irrigation and Drainage : 12 p..

DOI: 10.1002/ird.2720

Despite the attention given to the water¿energy¿food nexus, there is little field evidence of how this plays out for irrigators. This article analyses the diversity of irrigation system configurations and their related water and energy use in semi-arid Morocco, where groundwater-fed and pressurized drip irrigation, although supposedly thrifty, is energy intensive. The analysis relying on hydraulic calculations and multiple linear regressions was based on interviews, observations and measurements on irrigation systems in 25 farms. The results show that each farmer used between one and three pumps and up to two storage reservoirs to pump groundwater from up to 120¿m deep borehole(s) and transfer it along a distance often exceeding 2¿km to reach available fertile lands that are rented. Such distances had little effect on the system-wise energy consumption, varying between 4.62 and 4.88 kWh m-3, although the recycled car engines powering these irrigation systems were largely inefficient, consuming on average 2.5 kWh m-3. State subsidies encourage these water-intensive and energy-inefficient farming systems, increasing pressure on groundwater and land. These findings underline the importance of going beyond a strict nexus perspective, as expansion of the 'groundwater economy' is accompanied by conflicts over tenure and increasing inequalities in access to water that threaten the sustainability of irrigated agriculture.

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