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Freie Universität Berlin (2019)

Historical Water Management in SE Spain – with a focus on traditional irrigation strategies in the Vega of Vélez Blanco

Ißelhorst, Sarah

Titre : Historical Water Management in SE Spain – with a focus on traditional irrigation strategies in the Vega of Vélez Blanco

Auteur : Ißelhorst, Sarah

Université de soutenance : Freie Universität Berlin

Grade : Doctor rerum naturalium 2019

This thesis focuses on the study of human-environment interactions, highlighting water management strategies in semi-arid northeastern Andalusia (southern Spain). The Vega of Vélez Blanco is used as a case study. The cultural landscape of the study site is characterized by irrigated agricultural terraces. The local water management is centrally organized in a traditional irrigation community. Its origin dates back at least to the 8th century AD. Due to the natural environmental settings, the Vega of Vélez Blanco has a perennial water supply. A special feature of the irrigation community are regular auctions of water shares for the irrigation of the agricultural land. The presented work aims to analyze the social and technical structure of the water management in the Vega of Vélez Blanco. It furthermore aims to identify factors that influence the systems’ stability. In addition, the influence of perennial water availability on the landscape development is analyzed. The central research topic of this thesis is a unique archive of records of water auctions conducted in the Vega of Vélez Blanco. The data set was analyzed in correlation with local climate data by statistical analysis on different time scales. The research focuses on general water-price development and its dependence on precipitation events. Furthermore, the responsiveness of agricultural water management to long-term and short-term changes in the occurrence of precipitation is also investigated. The analysis results were validated with findings from structured interviews with local farmers concerning agricultural practices and irrigation strategies. In addition, a literature review on the historical development of water management in the context of regional landscape development was used to investigate the impact of perennial water availability on natural landscape processes. The main results of this study show that the long-term average rainfall occurring during the months from March to June are of major importance for irrigation agriculture in the study area. If the amount of precipitation during this period is low, the demand for irrigation water increases during the growing season. Decisions about investments for additional irrigation water show a strong dependence on the economic yield of the cultivated plants and the economic power of the actor. The influence of historical events and socioeconomic development on irrigated agriculture in the Vega of Vélez Blanco is also demonstrated. In the short-term, the system reacts to external factors, but it is nevertheless characterized by long-term stability. However, the intensity of the impact of external factors on the system is difficult to assess. The results of the literature analysis show that in the study area the change from a natural to a cultural landscape started at least during the 8th century AD with the onset of intensive irrigated cultivation. It was only in the late 19th century that awareness of human-environment relations locally evolved, raising awareness of the human influence on landscape dynamics.

Mots clés  : water pricing irrigation community agricultural terraces


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