02 Nov 2023
 | 02 Nov 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

The development of an operational system for estimating irrigation water use reveals socio-political dynamics in Ukraine

Jacopo Dari, Paolo Filippucci, and Luca Brocca

Abstract. Irrigation is the main driver for crop production in many agricultural regions across the world. The estimation of irrigation water has the potential to enhance our comprehension of the Earth system, thus providing crucial data for food production. In Ukraine, identified as the breadbasket of Europe, irrigation water use observations can reveal the effects of catastrophic natural- and human-related incidences on crop production, such as the conflict with Russia.

In this study, we have created a unique operational system for estimating irrigation water using data from satellite soil moisture, reanalysis precipitation and potential evaporation. The implementation of this method at high-resolution (1 km) during the period of 2015–2023 enabled us to evaluate the effect of the pandemic and conflict on the irrigation water supply in the area south of the Kakhovka dam in Ukraine. A significant decrease of 63 % and 44 % in irrigation water compared to the mean irrigation water between 2015–2023 has been identified as being linked to the collapse of the dam and, potentially, to the COVID-19 pandemic, respectively.

Jacopo Dari et al.

Status: open (until 03 Jan 2024)

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Jacopo Dari et al.

Jacopo Dari et al.


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Short summary
We have developed the first operational system (10-day latency) for estimating irrigation water use from accessible satellite and reanalysis data. As a proof of concept, the method has been implemented over an irrigated area fed by the Kakhovka reservoir, in Ukraine, collapsed on June 6, 2023. Estimates in the period 2015–2023 reveal that, as expected, the irrigation season of 2023 was characterized by the lowest amounts.