Irrigation ponds for agriculture

Climate change may entail positive effects for agriculture. At the same time, there is a risk of water shortages that can reduce production. Today, several farmers have already created or plan on creating ponds to obtain better possibilities of irrigating the crops and giving the animals water.

The estimates that SMHI has made for future conditions indicate an increased length of the vegetation period, or growing season. This is a positive factor for agriculture, but being able to optimally use this increased production potential requires access to water and nourishment for the plants. Length of vegetation period in Sweden

SMHI’s estimates also show that the number of days with low soil moisture in Sweden has already increased. This tendency appears to continue according to the climate estimates despite increased precipitation. This is because the plants are active for longer periods and the temperature is increasing. Evaporation is therefore increasing.

Opportunities and risks

Several positive effects are seen from a warmer climate and longer vegetation period. The risks noted concern new pests, weeds and viruses, but also a shortage of water.

Irrigation and drainage

The water needs of the cultivated plants are normally not covered by the precipitation that comes during the vegetation period. In the more water retaining soils, clay soils, there is a water reservoir that the plants use. Lighter soils, sandy soils, have little possibility to store water. By collecting water in the winter time, surface water or from drain pipes, it can be used for irrigation during the season.

In our climate, arable soil usually needs to be drained to avoid excessively wet conditions. So access to irrigation in some areas and good drainage are important issues for agriculture.

Irrigation ponds

Creating ponds is a way to improve possibilities of irrigating the crops and giving the animals water. They can also ensure more even production for the farms. Water and nutrients are gathered in the ponds that are returned to the agricultural soil upon irrigation. This way, the water is slowed and the nutrient load on the Baltic Sea decreases. Moreover, ponds often become attractive wetland areas for many breeding or resting bird species.

Examples from Gotland

On the island of Gotland, pond facilities have been installed at three different sites: Stora Tollby, Nyplings and När. A common factor for the three sites is that a great deal of work was done by the initiators themselves, mainly in terms of project planning and work management. For the newer ponds, grants were applied from through the County Administrative Board. In-depth texts in Swedish are linked below.
Irrigation pond Stora Tollby gård​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
Irrigation pond Nyplings gård
Irrigation pond in När

Damm med torkad jord.
Example of pond made for newly established agricultural land. Stora Tollby gård, Gotland

Legislation and finances

Being able to install irrigation ponds is not a given, even if it concerns one’s own land. Waterworks are subject to a permit or registration obligation. Building irrigation ponds is also a major investment. Applying for EU grants is one possibility to reduce the cost. More about legislation and finances can be found in the in-depth text.

More examples of climate adaptation

This is one of many examples of climate adaptation. There are more in the collection of ideas being built up by the Swedish National Knowledge Centre for Climate Change Adaptation at the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI). The collection of examples has the aim of sharing experiences and providing ideas to everyone who works with climate adaptation. Examples describe concrete measures and challenges in several subject areas. They show how different actors have worked to adapt their activities to the climate changes that are already being noticed today and those that we cannot prevent in the future.