Journal article

Integrated analysis for a carbon- and water-constrained future: An assessment of drip irrigation in a lettuce production system in eastern Australia

Sustainability Australia Queensland

The Australian Government is meeting the challenge of water scarcity and climate change through significant on-farm infrastructure investment to increase water use efficiency and productivity, and secure longer term water supplies. However, it is likely that on-farm infrastructure investment will alter energy consumption and therefore generate considerable greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, suggesting potential conflicts in terms of mitigation and adaptation policies. In particular, the introduction of a price on carbon may influence the extent to which new irrigation technologies are adopted. This study evaluated trade-offs between water savings, GHG emissions and economic gain associated with the conversion of a sprinkler (hand shift) irrigation system to a drip (trickle) irrigation system for a lettuce production system in the Lockyer Valley, one of the major vegetable producing regions in Australia. Surprisingly, instead of trade-offs, this study found positive synergies -- a win-win situation. The conversion of the old hand-shift sprinkler irrigation system to a drip irrigation system resulted in significant water savings of almost 2 ML/ha, as well as an overall reduction in GHG emissions. Economic modelling, at a carbon price of $ 30/t CO2e, indicated that there was a net benefit of adoption of the drip irrigation system of about $ 4620/ML/year. We suggest priority should be given, in the implementation of on-farm infrastructure investment policy, to replacing older inefficient and energy-intensive sprinkler irrigation systems such as hand shift and roll-line. The findings of the study support the use of an integrated approach to avoid possible conflicts in designing national climate change mitigation and adaptation policies, both of which are being developed in Australia.

Publication Details


Publication place:
United Kingdom