Legislation to control abstraction of water in Scotland is limited and for purposes such as irrigation there are no restrictions in place over most of the country. This situation is set to change with implementation of the European Water Framework Directive. As a first step towards the development of appropriate policy for irrigation control there is a need to assess the current scale of irrigation practices in Scotland. This paper presents a modelling approach that has been used to quantify spatially the volume of water abstractions across the country for irrigation of potato crops under typical climatic conditions. A water balance model was developed to calculate soil moisture deficits and identify the potential need for irrigation. The results were then combined with spatial data on potato cropping and integrated to the sub-catchment scale to identify the river systems most at risk from over-abstraction. The results highlight that the areas that have greatest need for irrigation of potatoes are all concentrated in the central east-coast area of Scotland. The difference between irrigation demand in wet and dry years is very significant, although spatial patterns of the distribution are similar.

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