Jeavon’s Paradox probably does apply, but the study suggests that it’s also related to how natural processes work in arid lands.
Climate change, water supply limits, and continued population growth have intensified the search for measures to conserve water in irrigated agriculture, the world’s largest water user. Policy measures that encourage adoption of water-conserving irrigation technologies are widely believed to make more water available for cities and the environment. However, little integrated analysis has been conducted to test this hypothesis. This article presents results of an integrated basin-scale analysis linking biophysical, hydrologic, agronomic, economic, policy, and institutional dimensions of the Upper Rio Grande Basin of North America. It analyzes a series of water conservation policies for their effect on water used in irrigation and on water conserved. In contrast to widely-held beliefs, our results show that water conservation subsidies are unlikely to reduce water use under conditions that occur in many river basins. Adoption of more efficient irrigation technologies reduces valuable return flows and limits aquifer recharge. Policies aimed at reducing water applications can actually increase water depletions. Achieving real water savings requires designing institutional, technical, and accounting measures that accurately track and economically reward reduced water depletions. Conservation programs that target reduced water diversions or applications provide no guarantee of saving water.
This is very interesting. Like Zeno, I am curious for an explanation. Is it that the farmers that use water efficiently also use more of it? That after they start using it more efficiently, they then start to use more of it? Seems like this finding would not hold for residential water conservation; am I right? Are these findings likely hold true for high-end viticulture–in the upper Rio Grande I think they are growing alfalfa and cotton? What are the ramifications of this finding for the Sonoma Valley Groundwater Management Plan and the Santa Rosa Plain Groundwater Management Plan?
Caitlin Cornwall Sonoma Ecology Center
Is this the Jevons Paradox as applied to water use efficiency improvements?
cf The Jevons paradox and the myth of resource efficiency improvements / John M. Polimeni, et al.