Identifying Trade‐Offs and Reconciling Competing Demands for Water: Integrating Agriculture Into a Robust Decision‐Making Framework

Jerry W. Knox*, David Haro Monteagudo, Tim Hess, Joe Morris

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)
21 Downloads (Pure)


Increasing demands for water, driven by population growth and socioeconomic development, environmental regulations and future climate uncertainty, are highlighting limitations on water supplies. This water‐energy‐food‐environment nexus is not confined to semiarid regions but is emerging as a key business, societal, and economic risk in humid and temperate countries, where abundant water supplies and regulation have historically coped with fluctuating demands between industry, power generation, agriculture, domestic supply, and the environment. In the United Kingdom, irrigation is supplemental to rainfall, consumptive in use, and concentrated in the driest years and most resource‐stressed catchments. This paper describes an empirical application of a mixed methods approach to integrate agriculture into a robust decision‐making framework, focusing on a water‐stressed region in England. The approach shows that competing demands between sectors can be reconciled and that potential options or portfolios compatible with multisectoral collaboration and investment can be identified. The methodological challenges in forecasting agricultural demand, defining acceptable trade‐offs , managing scale and uncertainty issues, and the importance of engendering open dialogue between stakeholders are described. The study provides valuable insights for countries where similar emergent issues regarding conflicts over water demand exist.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1457-1470
Number of pages14
JournalEarth's Future
Issue number10
Early online date26 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information
Anglian Water Services. Grant Number: WRE
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). Grant Number: NE/L010186/1
MaRIUS. Grant Number: NE/L010186/1
Anglian Water Services (AWS)


  • agriculture
  • climate change
  • modeling
  • water resources
  • risk
  • uncertainty


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