The project, called DAWN (Illuminating Deep Uncertainties in the Estimation of Irrigation Water Withdrawals), is funded by an European Research Council Consolidator Grant and will address the uncertainties that currently surround our understanding of water use in irrigation.
As the world’s population steadily increases, and resources become scarcer, it is becoming increasingly important to sustainably manage water resources, while also producing enough food and protecting the environment.
According to Dr Arnald Puy, DAWN’s PI, increasingly sophisticated models are available to measure and predict water use, but their estimates tend to be spuriously accurate.
“Over the last 30 years, scientists have attempted to produce an accurate quantification of irrigation water withdrawals through increasingly detailed mathematical models. But their estimates do not seem to converge,” says Dr Arnald Puy.
“This lack of convergence evidences the existence of hidden uncertainties in our simulation of irrigation demands. Without exposing and embracing these uncertainties, our knowledge of the influence that humans have on the hydrological cycle will remain on fragile grounds,” Dr Puy added.
We’re aiming to dramatically strengthen the foundations of our knowledge on irrigation water use and our capacity to design models that are sufficiently robust to be used in the real world.Dr Arnald Puy, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
DAWN will move away from the quest for ever more complex models and predictive power. Instead, Dr Puy’s team will use models as instruments to map what we know and what we do not –and how what we do not know impacts our understanding of irrigation.
DAWN’s will examine the effects that path-dependencies, bandwagon effects and ambiguous assumptions have in the calculation of irrigation withdrawals. It will also explore how our estimations change when we integrate the knowledge of traditional irrigators, so far excluded from models.
“We’re aiming to dramatically strengthen the foundations of our knowledge on irrigation water use and our capacity to design models that are sufficiently robust to be used in the real world,” said Dr Puy.