Estimating Impacts of Land Use Change on Evapotranspiration for Three Agricultural Crops in Malta—A Preliminary Assessment

  •  Sara Fenech    
  •  Jerry Knox    
  •  Malcolm Borg    
  •  Christian Camilleri    
  •  Alex Rizzo    


Estimating evapotranspiration is crucial for better management of catchment water resources. In this study, the FAO CropWat model was used to estimate reference evapotranspiration (ETo), crop evapotranspiration (ETc), and total gross water requirements for three economically important agricultural crops grown in Malta: potatoes, wheat, and vineyards for three years representative of a typically wet (2003), average (2009), and dry (2013) year. In addition, changes in ETc due to changes in land use were estimated for 2009 and 2013 relative to a 2003 baseline. Across all three years and crops, the average ETo rates were estimated to range between 3.7 mm day -1 (2003) and 4.0 mm day-1 (2013) while average ETc rates were estimated to range between 1.6 mm day-1 and 5.3 mm day-1, respectively. For all three years, the highest total gross water requirement was estimated for wheat, reaching a maximum of 1450 mm in 2013. The results suggest that changes in land use between 2003 and 2013 were the main driver for changes in crop water demand. Differences in water demand compared to 2003 were estimated to range between -38% and 60%. This could have a substantial impact on the future sustainability of Malta’s increasingly constrained water resources.

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