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Integrating Hydrology into Farmer's Decisions

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Paul Quinn, Dr Caspar HewettORCiD


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In recent years there has been increasing recognition of the need for an integrated approach to water management taking account of social and economic development, hydrology and environmental considerations. This has given rise to the concepts of Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) and Integrated River Basin Management (IRBM), now enshrined in European law in the Water Framework Directive (WFD). Pure research provides vital background to these approaches, but researchers need to play a more active part in IWRM and IRBM. The WFD represents an opportunity to develop a balanced approach to water management involving partnerships between researchers and stakeholders, embracing the philosophy of Earth Systems Engineering and Management (ESEM). Periods of public engagement will be an essential ingredient to building successful partnerships and will need to involve stakeholders tied to all scales of water management, from the individual farmer or local trader through to decision makers at national level. We propose that knowledge of hydrological processes and how they change with scale is essential to effective land use and water policy. A multi-scale water management framework is proposed that capitalises on current expertise and takes on board the ESEM philosophy. The model types and the data they require are all tied to scale. Physically-based models and local experiment are run at the plot or research scale where cause and effect can be studied in detail. Simple meta models are used to mimic the outputs of the physically-based models. Here Minimum Information Requirement models are used at the catchment scale. These require a minimum number of parameters that are physically interpretable that can be linked to a GIS land classification scheme. Policy-makers are invited to assess and contribute to the development of simple Decision Support Matrices which articulate current levels of knowledge with degrees of uncertainty and a range of possible management practices. Once policies are established, the simple message and mandate for land use change is communicated to land use planners and end users through flow visualisation, educational and management tools. A high resolution flow analysis tool is presented that shows how pollution and runoff can be reduced on farmers’ fields. Finally, to advance practical application, a period of engagement with end users and local policy makers is proposed to help guarantee that the policies are actually taken up at the farm scale which is then studied back at the original research scale. All of the models and tools within the framework are interchangeable, but those presented have been chosen for their simplicity and their potential to aid communication. The great strength of the framework proposed is that the type of tools presented already exist and are readilt useable, thus the approach can be implemented immediately.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Quinn PF, Hewett CJM, Doyle A

Editor(s): Hatfield, JL

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: Published

Book Title: The Farmer's Decision: Balancing Economic Agriculture Production with Environmental Quality

Year: 2005

Pages: 173-204

Publisher: Soil & Water Conservation Society

Place Published: Iowa, USA

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9780976943211