Water managment

Five steps to avoid a global water tragedy

24 August 2018

Quentin Grafton & John Williams, The Asia & Pacific Policy Society
24 August 2018

Governments are pouring billions of dollars into making irrigation more efficient, with disastrous consequences for freshwater availability. Quentin Grafton and John Williams look at how to reverse the tide of bad policy.

Drought in Eastern Australia, heatwaves in Europe, water riots in India, and raging fires in California are a symptom of a planet where water, or the lack of it, is generating a crisis.

While the World Economic Forum recognises this crisis, one of the key solutions proposed by many governments is to increase irrigation efficiency and then reallocate water to industry, households or the environment.

Contrary to common wisdom, however, increasing irrigation efficiency will, typically, reduce the water available for reallocation.

Today, as part of an international collaboration with nine other scientists and economists from eight countries and seven universities, we have published a lead paper in Science entitled ‘The Paradox of Irrigation Efficiency’. Our research responds to the unfolding global water tragedy by demonstrating that increases in irrigation efficiency, in general, reduce surface run-off and groundwater recharge to the detriment of people, the environment, and our future.

What happens to irrigation efficiency really matters. This is because irrigation is responsible for about 70 per cent of the world’s freshwater extractions.

Read full article here.