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Energy for Water in Agriculture

About the Project 

The project’s objective is to understand how and why the energy required to meet water demand differs between countries. To explore this question, energy used for the extraction, treatment, and transport of water is decomposed. The decomposition offers an empirical base through which to examine how energy is used in the water cycle in countries.

Building on this empirical base, the project explores the controllable and less controllable factors that lead to differences in energy use for water provision. Particular consideration is given to the effects of industrial structure, pollution, water scarcity and pricing strategies on energy and water use.

In line with KAPSARC’s overall objectives, the project seeks to provide insights into how current policies influence the energy used for water withdrawals, and where improvements might be made. By exploring case studies from around the globe, the project highlights how successful practices in water and energy management from one country might be transferred to others. 

The workshop series provides a space for dialogue on key issues, feedback on KAPSARC's study program, and options for future research.

Key Points

  • Managing the closely interlinked water-energy-food nexus requires a holistic approach, as inefficient use of any of the three resources can have a negative effect on the other two. In countries with high rainfall, policy makers rarely need to worry about the nexus. But elsewhere, the effects are felt throughout the economy.
  • There is significant variance in the productivity of water for agriculture, and the energy required to extract that water, across countries. The most productive countries are typically those where the agriculture sectors rely on rainfall and surface water. Groundwater well depth, pump efficiency and the prevalence of desalination can affect the energy required to meet water demand for agriculture.
  • Given uncontrollable factors like water scarcity, there may be limits to how much certain countries can improve their productivity of water for agriculture. The results of our study highlight the opportunity cost for some countries of engaging in certain types of domestic food production, and suggest efficiency gains could be achieved through crop switching and/or importing water intensive crops.

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