How much Water does Swiss Agriculture need now and in the Future?

Because of climate change, summer runoff on the Swiss Central Plateau is decreasing whilst the potential demand for irrigation continues to grow. Data availability on water consumption for irrigation is patchy at best. Consequently, reliable estimates of agricultural water consumption under current and future conditions are needed for the early detection and avoidance of water-use conflicts. The SwissIrrigationInfo project makes an important contribution here by developing satellite- and model-based assessment methods for sustainable, farsighted water resource management.

As Europe's ‘water castle’, Switzerland has to date seldom been associated with the problem of water shortages. Nevertheless, water scarcity is already leading to increasingly frequent local and temporary bans on surface-water abstraction for agricultural irrigation. Water demand for irrigation is expected to continue rising in the future, whilst area runoff – especially in the summer months – is expected to decrease (Hydro-CH2018). Pressure on water resources will therefore potentially increase, due not only to ongoing climate change, but also to increasing water abstraction for crop irrigation. Given the patchiness of data on water consumption for irrigation, it is difficult to assess whether and where such changes can lead to problems in the long term. Such information, however, is crucial for early detection and the avoidance of water-use conflicts and unwise investments in irrigation infrastructure.

Enter the FOEN-funded ‘SwissIrrigationInfo’ project, conducted by Agroscope in cooperation with HAFL.

The objectives of the project are:

  1. To systematically compile available data on agricultural water use and derive recommendations for future data collection.
  2. To develop methods based on remote sensing and modelling approaches to estimate water use for irrigation, which will allow us to bridge existing information gaps and make forecasts for the future.
  3. To lay the groundwork for developing decision support tools for sustainable, farsighted resource planning.



Project partners

  • Frank Liebisch (Agroscope)
  • Helge Aasen (Agroscope)
  • Andreas Keiser (HAFL)
  • Andrea Marti (HAFL)