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Global map of irrigation areas
The Global Map of Irrigation Areas was developed by combining sub-national irrigation statistics with geospatial information on the position and extent of irrigation schemes to compute the fraction of 5 arc minute cells that was equipped for irrigation, which is called irrigation density. The figure below gives a schematic overview of the methodology:
In the following, we provide a concise description of the mapping methodology. A detailed description is given in Siebert et al. (2005).
Irrigation statistics for sub-national units (e.g. districts, counties, provinces, governorates, river basins), from national census surveys and from reports available at FAO,
World Bank and other international organizations, are being collected on a continious basis. For most of the countries, these statistics refer to the area equipped for irrigation. Due to several reasons (e.g. crop rotation, water shortages, damage of infrastructure) the area actually irrigated maybe significantly lower than the area equipped for irrigation. However, some countries only report the area that was actually irrigated in the year of the census. Statistics for the year closest to 2000 were used if statistics for more than one year were available. For countries, where the irrigation statistics reported by the AQUASTAT database were assumed to be more representative, the collected subnational statistics were scaled so that the sum of the irrigated area equals the area equipped for irrigation as given by AQUASTAT at the country level.
In order to distribute irrigated area within the sub-national units, geospatial information on position and extent of irrigated areas was derived by digitizing hundreds of irrigation maps available in reports of FAO, World Bank, irrigation associations or national ministries of agriculture. Additionally, information from several atlases or inventories based on remote sensing available in digital format was utilized. For most of the countries, more than one data source was used.
As the relevance and reliability of the maps varies, it was necessary to decide which geospatial record should be used in a specific sub-national unit. This was realized by applying a priority level to each record. Only if the extent of all digitized irrigated areas with the highest priority level was smaller than the total irrigated area reported for the specific sub-national unit, also records with the second highest priority were considered. This distribution process was repeated down to the next lower priority level until the sum of irrigated area in the map was equal to the irrigated area in the sub-national statistics. Several different criteria have been used to assign priorities to geospatial information, for example:
- the scale and publishing date of the maps;
- the type of map (simple sketch or drawing to scale);
- how the background information for the maps was collected (by ground based mapping, survey or via remote sensing);
- if only the position or also the extent of the irrigation schemes was provided.
In many sub-national units, lack of geospatial information on irrigation made it necessary to use indirect information to infer areas within the sub-national unit where irrigation is probable. Such information includes areas where the main irrigated crops are grown, or cultivated areas in very arid regions. For arid regions, remote sensing data were additionally used to verify the available maps. If no direct or indirect information about the spatial distribution of irrigation within a sub-national unit was available, irrigated area was distributed according to one of two global landcover datasets (USGC-GLCC-2.0 and JRC-GLC2000)
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