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date: 24 November 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Irrigation dominates demand in many watershort countries, generating competition, scarcity, and environmental degradation. Remedies require political commitment, laws, institutional reforms and technical interventions, collectively based on physical water accounts that distinguish between nonconsumptive uses that largely return water to the surface or subsurface system environment for reuse, and consumptive uses that remove water from the local water system. Domestic and industrial uses predominate in the former category; irrigation dominates the latter. The most commonly recommended solution to the water crisis, namely improved technology, has the potential to worsen scarcity by increasing both consumption and demand for water. An alternative option, pricing, has nowhere been successfully demonstrated to reduce irrigation demand to sustainable levels. Enforced physical quotas that are consistent with sustainable consumption is the only proven approach, and it is essential that the elements necessary to achieve this are introduced before widespread adoption of ‘hi tech’ irrigation is promoted.

Keywords: Water scarcity, sustainable water use, water accounting, irrigation technology, water pricing, water quotas

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