A Fast Track approach to deal with the temporal dimension of crop water footprint
Population growth, socio-economic development and climate changes are placing increasing pressure on water resources. Crop water footprint is a key indicator in the quantification of such pressure. It is determined by crop evapotranspiration and crop yield, which can be highly variable in space and time. While the spatial variability of crop water footprint has been the objective of several investigations, the temporal variability remains poorly studied. In particular, some studies approached this issue by associating the time variability of crop water footprint only to yield changes, while considering evapotranspiration patterns as marginal. Validation of this Fast Track approach has yet to be provided. We demonstrate its feasibility through a comprehensive validation, an assessment of its uncertainty, and an example of application. Our results show that the water footprint changes are mainly driven by yield trends, while evapotranspiration plays a minor role. The error due to considering constant evapotranspiration is three times smaller than the uncertainty of the model used to compute the crop water footprint.
The concept of crop water footprint provides a useful tool to quantify the efficiency of water used for food production. While a great deal of attention has been devoted to the CWF variability in space, less attention has been paid to its variability in time even though climatic fluctuations and yield variations have been remarkable in the past decades.