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Journal of Environmental Management
Volume 294 2021, 112896

Investigating dynamic interconnections between organic farming adoption and freshwater sustainability

Eirini Aivazidouia,b, Naoum Tsolakisc

Department of Industrial Management, School of Mechanical Engineering, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, P.O. Box 461, Thessaloniki, 54124, Greece.


As freshwater overexploitation in agriculture is rising, the application of alternative farming practices, particularly in water-scarce areas, is critical for the sustainability of the sector. Organic agriculture constitutes an opportunity for freshwater conservation, further improving biodiversity and human health. Notwithstanding literature efforts on the driving factors of organic farming and the impact of the latter on freshwater resources, a dynamic investigation of the interconnections between organic farming diffusion and freshwater sustainability is lacking. This research adopts a systems thinking perspective on the transition from conventional to organic agriculture. The developed system dynamics model explores the feedback mechanisms underpinning organic farming adoption and freshwater use by integrating, for the first time, the effects of: (i) farmers' water-related environmental and economic awareness patterns; and (ii) policy incentives and word of mouth about organic production benefits. The model is validated and tested based on a real-world wine grapes' case. The simulation outcomes highlight that the growers' intense environmental awareness could accelerate organic farming adoption, further promoting freshwater sustainability in case organic agriculture operations generate considerably low freshwater consumption coefficients. Overall, the proposed modelling framework is anticipated to act as a strategic tool for informing policy-makers about the system's state over time to plan potential interventions towards water-friendly organic farming.

Keywords: Organic farming adoption, Freshwater resources, Sustainable agriculture, Enviro-economic awareness, System dynamics modelling.

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