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Submit a Manuscript to the Journal
International Journal of Water Resources Development

For a Special Issue on
Water resource management in agriculture for achieving food and water security under climate change in Asia

Manuscript deadline
30 August 2022

Cover image - International Journal of Water Resources Development

Special Issue Editor(s)

Dil Bahadur Rahut, Asian Development Bank Institute
[email protected]

Jeetendra Prakash Aryal, Independent Consultant (ADBI)
[email protected]

Tetsushi Sonobe, Asian Development Bank Institute
[email protected]

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Water resource management in agriculture for achieving food and water security under climate change in Asia

Agriculture is one of the major sectors consuming water in the world. According to the Asian Development Bank estimates, 80% of water resources are used for agricultural irrigation in the Asia Pacific region. The agriculture sector in central Asia consumes about 90% of the available surface water resources. Similarly, India uses more than 80% of the surface water for the agriculture sector alone, and it is the largest user of groundwater in the world – 60% for irrigated agriculture and 85% for drinking water supplies. Climate change considerably affects the water availability to agriculture. Therefore, water scarcity due to climate change and increased demand for water from other sectors of the economy can limit the agriculture sector’s capacity to ensure food security unless issues related to improved water management in agriculture are properly addressed.

Being a critical input for agricultural production, use of water in the agriculture sector will rise in future due to the necessity of satisfying the food demand for rising population. Meeting food and fibre demand for the growing global population, which is projected to increase from over 7 billion in 2017 to about 10 billion in 2050, will be a major challenge. Further, with higher economic growth in developing countries, per capita food demand growth is more likely to be a crucial factor in determining the food demand in 2050 than population growth alone. To meet food demand in 2050, global production of crops and livestock is estimated to be 60% higher than it was in 2006. The more serious concern is that even with new advancements in farming practices and crop innovations, the global food supply will be challenged by the impacts of climate change on water resource used in agriculture.

Globally, irrigated agriculture represents 20% of the total cultivated land, contributing almost 40% of the total global food production. In China, irrigated agriculture contributes almost 75% of the total grain production, indicating a critical role of improved water management in agriculture to ensure national food security as well as stability of the world grain market. It is predicted that irrigation water demand will rise by 13.6% by 2025, while about 15% of freshwater supplies will be diverted from agriculture to domestic use and industry. As a result, the agriculture sector may face acute water shortages in the coming decades. These issues call for improved water management in agriculture. Further, many Asian countries have low irrigation water use efficiency. For example, despite being a large agricultural producer, irrigation water use efficiency in India is as low as 38%. Hence, there is an ample room for increasing water use efficiency given that less than 65 % of the applied water is actually used by the crops. However, improved water management in agriculture requires both demand and supply-side solutions.

Better management refers to improving water allocation system and enhancing efficiency in use. For improving water allocation in agriculture, proper water pricing mechanism is essential while enhancing water use efficiency calls for better irrigation technology and practices and proper environmental regulations. However, socio-economic, and political issues and climate change impose several restrictions to improving water allocation in agriculture. Better water management in agriculture is thus not only related to technological issues but involves many other considerations such as the social behavior of farming communities, the economic constraints, and the legal and institutional framework.

In agriculture, demand-side measures to water management refer to those methods that reduce the amount of water that is being used for agricultural activity. Several measures can be applied as demand-side measures: i) structural and/or operational change such as replacing inefficient water pumps, using drip irrigation, laser land leveling, etc., ii) economic measures such as financial incentives for reducing water waste in irrigation, or disincentives (or tax) on overuse, iii) provide training and education to farmers to change their behaviour and to make them aware on the importance of using water-saving technology. Due to lack of proper demand-side measures, the groundwater in India largely suffers from a situation that resembles the ‘tragedy of commons’. Existing rules in India provide the landowners the right to use the groundwater on their land, while the landowners are not legally liable for groundwater depletion due to unsustainable use. Lack of institutional rules and regulations to effectively enforce the rate of groundwater extraction has led to the severe depletion of groundwater tables in major food producing states of India.

Supply-side measures to water management in agriculture are associated with the alternatives that increase the amount of water available for agricultural use. It is mainly done with increasing storage capacities, recharging groundwater tables, using technology to clean water so that that can be used in agriculture, and finding new sources. Several supply-side management techniques can be expensive, and thus, their implementation may face financial barriers in the developing country context. Yet, the implementation of small farm-sized dams that help reuse run-off water from one crop to irrigate other crops can be a suitable option for small farmers in Asia.

Against this backdrop, there is an increasing concern of whether or not existing practices, technology, and policies are sufficient to address the challenges related to water use in agriculture so that it can meet future food demand. Resolving future water challenges in agriculture requires a systematic reconsideration of water management in the agricultural sector and also, reassessing it in the broader context of overall water resources management and water policy in agriculture. Though it is a global concern, it is more pertinent to Asia, a home to 60% of the total global population (7.67 billion). Therefore, this special issue will focus primarily on the following issues:

  • Existing challenges on water resource management in agriculture and its impacts on food security under climate change.
  • Identify the alternative water management practices that are more relevant for water-scarce and water-abundant agricultural settings.
  • Examine the role of agricultural technologies in enhancing water use efficiency in agriculture and the potentials for upscaling water-saving technologies
  • Explore a systematic reconsideration of water management in agriculture through a combination of technologies and policies.
  • Examine in-depth the technological and institutional development that contributes to food and water security through improved water management technology in agriculture.
  • Provide a deeper understanding of the implications of water management in agriculture from both demand- and supply-side perspectives. Management has critical implications and thus, solutions must take into consideration how the agricultural water is being used, and for what purposes. New technologies and approaches, when applied to agricultural water, can have significant implications for water use, reduction, and reuse, allowing farmers to better prepare for and manage water scarcity challenges.
  • Examine the potential of economic instruments for improved water management, especially in the case of groundwater use for irrigation.
  • Assess the importance of educating and involving multiple stakeholders to ensure improved water use efficiency in agriculture through appropriate management in water delivery system, technology and policy.
  • Assess how alternative policies and water governance methods can contribute towards achieving food security through improved water management in agriculture.

The special issue contributes to water management policy in agriculture in Asia by providing practical insights at multiple levels.  At present, inadequate policy is a key limiting factor to attain improved water management in agriculture and food security. Furthermore, it provides policy alternatives required to address the institutional, socio-economic, and financial constraints, which largely limit agricultural water management. Presenting the key findings of the accepted papers in the conference, where multiple stakeholders from both public and private institutions, including agricultural and water ministries, irrigation agencies, water users’ and farmer organizations, and academics/researchers working in the same issue from universities, national and international organizations, this SI will help creating the enabling environment and reassessing the role of each of the stakeholders in contributing towards achieving the goal.

Submission Instructions

-Select "Water resource management in agriculture for achieving food and water security under climate change in Asia” when submitting your paper to ScholarOne

- Details of different types of papers that will be accepted

The special issue contributes to water management policy in agriculture in Asia by providing practical insights at multiple levels, therefore it will give due consideration to papers that focus on the following aspect with strong policy implications:

  • Challenges on water resource management in agriculture and its impacts on food security under climate change.
  • Alternative water management practices that are more relevant for water-scarce and water-abundant agricultural settings.
  • Role of agricultural technologies in enhancing water use efficiency in agriculture and the potentials for upscaling water-saving technologies
  • Systematic reconsideration of water management in agriculture through a combination of technologies and policies.
  • Technological and institutional development that contributes to food and water security through improved water management technology in agriculture.
  • Understanding of the implications of water management in agriculture from both demands- and supply-side perspectives.
  • New technologies and approaches, which have significant implications for water use, reduction, and reuse, allowing farmers to better prepare for and manage water scarcity challenges.
  • Economic instruments for improved water management, especially in the case of groundwater use for irrigation.
  • Assess how alternative policies and water governance methods can contribute towards achieving food security through improved water management in agriculture.

Authors are requested to include separate policy implication sections in the manuscripts before the conclusion.

- Expected publication dates 31st December 2022. (Selected paper will be presented at an ADBI conference around October 15, 2022)

Instructions for AuthorsSubmit an Article

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