Abstract

Water use efficiencies (WUEs) between 20% and 60% are commonly reported for single rice paddies. When larger spatial domains are considered, higher WUE than minimum values observed for individual fields are expected due to water reuse. This study investigates scale-effects on water balances and WUEs of four adjacent rice fields located in Northern Italy and characterized by different elevations (A ≅ B + C > D). Water balance terms for the paddies were quantified during the agricultural season 2015 through the integrated use of observational data and modelling procedures. Following a Darcy-based approach, percolation was distinguished from net seepage. Results showed net irrigation of about 2,700 and 2,050 mm for fields A and B, and around 640 and nearly 0 mm for C and D. WUE of A, B, C and D amounted, respectively, to 21, 28, 66 and >100%. Values for C and D were due to less permeable soils, to seepage fluxes providing extra water inputs and to the shallow groundwater level. When the group of paddies ACD was considered (B was not included since it was separated by a deep channel), net irrigation and WUE were found to reach 1,550 mm and 39%, confirming the important role of water reuses in paddy agro-ecosystems.

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