OECD Studies on Water

2224-5081 (online)
2224-5073 (print)
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Water is essential for economic growth, human health, and the environment. Yet governments around the world face significant challenges in managing their water resources effectively. The problems are multiple and complex: billions of people are still without access to safe water and adequate sanitation; competition for water is increasing among the different uses and users; and major investment is required to maintain and improve water infrastructure in OECD and non-OECD countries. This OECD series on water provides policy analysis and guidance on the economic, financial and governance aspects of water resources management. These aspects generally lie at the heart of the water problem and hold the key to unlocking the policy puzzle.

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Drying Wells, Rising Stakes

Drying Wells, Rising Stakes

Towards Sustainable Agricultural Groundwater Use You do not have access to this content

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28 Sep 2015
9789264238701 (PDF) ;9789264238695(print)

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Groundwater has provided great benefits to agriculture irrigation in semi-arid OECD countries, but its intensive use beyond recharge in certain regions has depleted resources and generated significant negative environmental externalities. The report provides a characterisation of the diversity of groundwater systems, reviews policies in OECD countries, and proposes a package of recommendations to ensure that groundwater can sustain its services to agriculture and contribute to climate change adaptation.

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  • Foreword

    As a natural reserve relatively resilient to climate variability, groundwater has provided large benefits to irrigated agriculture in semi-arid OECD countries. It has supported the development and expanded production of commodity crops in the US Midwest and Mexico and high value products in semi-arid areas of Mediterranean Europe or the Middle East. But intensive use beyond recharge capacity in certain regions has depleted resources and increasingly generates significant negative environmental externalities, including stream depletion, saline intrusion and land subsidence.

  • Executive summary

    Groundwater resources sustain a significant and increasing share of irrigated agricultural production. On a global scale, groundwater represents over 40% of consumptive irrigation water use, covering just under 40% of irrigated land globally. In OECD countries, groundwater for agriculture irrigation is used on 23 million hectares, for an estimated annual volume of 123.5 km3, accounting for about 20% of global irrigation withdrawals.

  • The worrisome trends in groundwater irrigation expansion

    This chapter presents the challenges of groundwater management, and provides an overview of the status and use of groundwater for agriculture in OECD countries. It examines recent data, trends, and indicators of groundwater use and stress at the national, regional and aquifer levels, and reviews the evidence on the expected effects of climate change.

  • Understanding agricultural groundwater systems and challenges

    This chapter discusses the diversity of agricultural groundwater systems in OECD countries with the goal of identifying the main factors that may need to be accounted for when managing groundwater systems. Acknowledging these characteristics, the key challenges associated with agricultural groundwater pumping in OECD countries are reviewed, considering, in particular, reversible and irreversible externalities.

  • What policy instruments help to manage agricultural groundwater use sustainably?

    This chapter provides a normative analysis of agricultural groundwater management policies. Through an economic lens, it reviews the rationale for groundwater public policies and management, and discusses the advantages and drawbacks of the main instruments used to manage groundwater in agriculture.

  • What agricultural groundwater policies exist in OECD countries?

    This chapter reviews policies and management approaches for agricultural groundwater management in OECD countries. Responses to a questionnaire are used to examine the diversity of national and regional policy instruments. An analysis is also conducted at the regional level to assess whether the choice of management instruments can be linked to specific characteristics and constraints of agricultural groundwater systems.

  • Towards adaptive groundwater management in agriculture

    This chapter combines lessons from Chapter 3 and from past policy successes and failures to identify a package of recommendations for sustainable groundwater management. It then evaluates whether OECD policies fit this framework and concludes on the need for improvements in the context of the expected growing importance of groundwater management for agriculture under climate change.

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