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water in agriculture

Secrets to successful irrigation management from Central Asia

Soumya Balasubramanya's picture

As delegates are gathering this week in Tajikistan for the High-Level International Conference on the International Decade for Action “Water for Sustainable Development,” 2018-2028, it is an opportune moment to share some lessons learned in improving gender inclusiveness in water management in Tajikistan.
 
Khatlon Region is one of the most populated areas of Tajikistan and located to the south of the conference venue in the nation’s capital of Dushanbe. About 60 percent of the region’s people are employed by the agricultural sector, which depends almost entirely on irrigation. However, growing numbers of rural women in Khatlon are being left behind to manage farms, while males migrate elsewhere in search of work. With little social and financial support, these women struggle to find productive roles in the irrigation management system that replaced the centralized Soviet model. Improving gender inclusiveness in irrigation management may improve the country’s food security, rural livelihood opportunities, and social stability.   

Strengthening policy innovation for water use in agriculture

Lauren Nicole Core's picture

Experts from high-income countries and client countries came together last week during a joint World Bank-OECD workshop to discuss the shared goal of improving policy design and implementation for water use in agriculture. Although efficient use of water is becoming a central aim of agricultural practices, much work is yet to be done to meet steep water demands and curtail pollution from agricultural production.

Ensuring a water and food secure future through farmer-led irrigation

Steven Schonberger's picture

How can we think in new ways about expanding farmer-led irrigation in support of global food security and poverty reduction? This was the question at the heart of the 2017 Water for Food International Forum. The theme, “Water for Food Security: From Local Lessons to Global Impacts,” was based on the premise that global breakthroughs are so often driven by local action.
 
Organized by the World Bank and the Daugherty Water for Food Institute (DWFI) at the University of Nebraska, and supported by several partners, the event showcased voices from farmer representatives, the private sector, national and regional policymakers, and major international financing institutions – galvanizing a coalition of support to legitimize farmer-led irrigation as a major development agenda, particularly for Africa.
 

Cucumbers growing in a greenhouse for hydroponics.
Photo: Sashko via ShutterStock

Protecting our water sources brings a wealth of benefits

Andrea Erickson's picture
The journey of our water from source to tap is long, and not one we think much about. For most of us, our water starts high in the mountains, hundreds of miles away. From there, water flows across natural and working lands until a portion is channeled to water pipes that move water to our faucets, to farms, and to various types of businesses.

Agriculture holds the key to tackling water scarcity

Rimma Dankova's picture

Agriculture is both a victim and a cause of water scarcity. Water of appropriate quality and quantity is essential for the production of crops, livestock, and fisheries, as well as for the processing and preparation of these foods and products. Water is the lifeblood of ecosystems, including forests, lakes, and wetlands, on which the food and nutritional security of present and future generations depends. At the same time, agriculture is the largest water user globally, and a major source of water pollution. Unsustainable agricultural water use practices threatens the sustainability of livelihoods dependent on water and agriculture.

Additionally, climate change will have significant impacts on agriculture by increasing water demand, limiting crop productivity, and reducing water availability in areas where irrigation is most needed or has a comparative advantage. A growing number of regions will face increasing water scarcity. Climate change will bring greater variation in weather events, more frequent weather extremes, and new challenges requiring the sector to take mitigation and adaptation actions.

New directions in the economics of agricultural water conservation

Susanne M. Scheierling's picture

A challenging area in agricultural water management is the assessment of policy and investment options in irrigated agriculture for conserving water and adapting to increasing water scarcity, in particular when the linkages to groundwater resources and their management are to be considered and incorporated. 

However, this is an increasingly important area of research for a number of reasons.  First, irrigated agriculture accounts for about 70% of global freshwater withdrawals, and is a major contributing factor to the water scarcity situation in many countries.  Second, with almost a quarter of freshwater withdrawals for irrigated agriculture being made up of groundwater supplies—corresponding to 70% of total groundwater withdrawals—, agricultural water use is also a major contributing factor to aquifer overexploitation.  And, third, surface water and groundwater are closely linked in most parts of the world, with groundwater discharge contributing to the base flow of streams and surface water contributing to groundwater recharge, and these interactions are intensified by human action, in particular water withdrawals for irrigated agriculture.  Even in cases where irrigated agriculture depends mostly on surface water, groundwater impacts therefore need to be accounted for when assessing water conservation efforts (and vice versa).

Water markets can support an improved water future

Brian Richter's picture


Fresh water touches every part of daily life—from drinking water and sanitation, to agriculture and energy production. Unfortunately, for nearly half of the world’s population, water scarcity is a growing issue with devastating impacts to our communities, economies and nature. In the past, countries have primarily turned to more supply-side infrastructure, including reservoirs and canals, as solutions to increasing water demands. But we can no longer build our way out of scarcity. We must find ways to do more with less, and impact investment can provide a catalyst for revolutionary changes in water management.  

Water markets can be a powerful mechanism for alleviating water scarcity, restoring ecosystems and driving sustainable water management. Water markets are based upon water rights which can be bought and sold, enabling water to be transferred from one user to another. A well-managed water market provides economic flexibility, encourages water saving measures and brings a variety of stakeholders to the table to find balance between the water needs of people and nature.

The Nature Conservancy’s new report, “Water Share: Using water markets and impact investment to drive sustainability,” explores the potential for water markets and impact investment to serve as part of the solution to global water scarcity. Water markets, when paired with creative investment solutions including The Nature Conservancy’s concept of Water Sharing Investment Partnerships, can help provide a more water-secure future for cities, agriculture, industries and nature.

The case for solar water pumps

Richard Colback's picture


The cost of solar technology has come down, way down, making it is a viable way to expand access to energy for hundreds of millions of people living in energy poverty. For farmers in developing countries, the growing availability of solar water pumps offers a viable alternative to system dependent on fossil fuel or grid electricity. While relatively limited, experience in several countries shows how solar irrigation pumps can make farmers more resilient against the erratic shifts in rainfall patterns caused by climate change or the unreliable supply and high costs of fossil fuels needed to operate water pumps. Experience also suggests a number of creative ways that potential water resource trade-offs can be addressed.

Why it’s time to elevate groundwater

Jacob Burke's picture

Groundwater stored in the earth’s crust underpins all our lives – the ultimate source of freshwater for billions has become victim of over-extraction and the ultimate sink for pollutants.
 
For too long, not enough has been done to regulate the use of this precious, on-demand resource and manage disposal of waste. If rates of groundwater depletion have tripled in the past 3 decades, then the rate at which pollutants have accumulated in shallow aquifers can only have equaled or exceeded that rate.
 
The lack of care given to groundwater is placing a huge tax on the poor who have no access to clean piped water supply and depend on groundwater for their health and livelihoods. Self-supply, through the use of wells, from polluted aquifers in urban and rural areas is widespread, but un-reported. The impacts are all too apparent in the densely populated urban slums and rural communities that often live just centimeters above polluted soil and rock. Out-migration of poor farmers who are no longer able to access deepening groundwater tables has been a feature in arid and semi-arid regions, but intensive agriculture is also leaving behind a legacy of nitrates and pesticides which imprint aquifers for decades.

In China, Innovation in Water Rights Leads to Real Water Savings

Liping Jiang's picture

Also available in: 中文

China’s most arid regions are facing an increasingly serious water crisis, and local water policies often aggravate the problem. In such climates, growth in the agricultural sector has come with high environmental costs.

With the help of new technologies that measure real water consumption in agriculture, governments are designing innovative water rights systems that actually save water. Based on results from two successful pilots, the World Bank Group is partnering with China to tap into science to transform water management in agriculture at the national level.

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