Groundwater overdraft reduction through agricultural energy policy: insights from India and Mexico

CHRISTOPHER A. SCOTT* & TUSHAAR SHAH**

*South Asia Regional Office, International Water Management Institute, Hyderabad, India
**Sustainable Groundwater Management, International Water Management Institute, Anand, India

 

ABSTRACT

Rapid expansion of groundwater irrigation has transformed the rural economy in regions around the world, leading to significant increases in agricultural productivity and rising incomes. Farmer investment in wells and pumps has driven this expansion on the demand side; however, the supply of cheap agricultural energy—usually electrical power—is a critical though often overlooked driver of the groundwater boom. One serious outcome in numerous regions around the world has been groundwater overdraft; where pumping exceeds aquifer recharge, water tables have declined and water quality has deteriorated. India and Mexico are two of the largest users of groundwater in the world and both face critical overdraft challenges. The two countries are compared, given that electrical energy supply and pricing are primary driving forces behind groundwater pumping for irrigation in India and Mexico alike. Both countries have attempted regulatory measures to reduce groundwater overdraft. However, with low energy costs and readily available connections, there are few financial disincentives for farmers to limit pumping. The linkages between energy and irrigation are reviewed, comparing and contrasting India and Mexico. Examples of legal, regulatory and participatory approaches to groundwater management are assessed. Finally, the implications of linking electrical power pricing and supply with ongoing groundwater regulation efforts in both countries are explored.

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