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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

Water management for irrigation, crop yield and social attitudes: a socio-agricultural agent-based model to explore a collective action problem

Tamburino, Lucia; Di Baldassarre, Giuliano; Vico, Giulia


When rainfall does not meet crop water requirements, supplemental irrigation is needed to maintain productivity. On-farm ponds can prevent excessive groundwater exploitation - to the benefit of the whole community - but they reduce the cultivated area and require investments by each farmer. Thus, choosing the source of water for irrigation (groundwatervson-farm pond) is a problem of collective action. An agent-based model is developed to simulate a smallholder farming system; the farmers' long-/short-view orientation determines the choice of the water source. We identify the most beneficial water source for economic gain and its stability, and how it can change across communities and under future climate scenarios. By using on-farm ponds, long-view-oriented farmers provide collective advantages but have individual advantages only under extreme climates; a tragedy of the commons is always possible. Changes in farmers' attitudes (and hence sources of water) based on previous experiences can worsen the economic outcome.


agent-based model; precipitation unpredictability; collective action; supplemental irrigation; groundwater; on-farm ponds; crop yield

Published in

Hydrological Sciences Journal
2020, volume: 65, number: 11, pages: 1815-1829

Authors' information

Tamburino, Lucia
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Crop Production Ecology
Di Baldassarre, Giuliano
Uppsala Univ
Di Baldassarre, Giuliano
Ctr Nat Hazards and Disaster Sci CNDS
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Crop Production Ecology

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG6 Clean water

UKÄ Subject classification

Oceanography, Hydrology, Water Resources

Publication Identifiers


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