ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Managing the Water–Energy Nexus in Agriculture

Adoption of Water Management Technologies

Managing the Water–Energy Nexus in Agriculture

Water management technologies, mainly micro-irrigation, help save water by 39% and energy by 58%. In 2025, the total demand for water in India is projected to be 886 billion cubic metre, and the total electricity demand 4,18,277 million kWh. Adoption of micro-irrigation is increasing at 1.22% per annum. If this growth rate continues, about 8.8 million hectares will be under micro-irrigation in 2025, and 24 bcm of water and 3,598 MkWh of electricity will be saved annually. To boost adoption, the government should promote cost-effective micro-irrigation system designs, simplify subsidy norms, and strengthen capacity-building programmes for farmers.

Energy and water are key inputs in agricultural production. It is essential to manage their use efficiently, and policymakers, researchers, academia, farmers, and social activists continually discuss how to formulate policies that will help. Researchers in India have studied the issues of the water–energy nexus in agriculture (Narayanamoorthy 1997a; Shah et al 2003; Palanisami and Suresh Kumar 2003; Kumar 2005; Scott and Sharma 2009; Kumar et al 2010; Kumar et al 2011; Kondepati 2011; Shah et al 2012; Scott et al 2015). Most studies, however, focus on issues and policy interventions that—indirectly, through electricity pricing policies—help reduce the over-exploitation of groundwater. Highly subsidised electricity pricing has led to several negative externalities, such as over-pumping, higher energy use by crops, and the cultivation of more water-intensive crops, which have reduced water supplies in agriculture (Narayanamoorthy 1997a; Palanisami and Suresh Kumar 2003).

However, electricity pricing is a politicised issue (Kondepati 2011). It is believed that energy subsidies are necessary for marginal and small farmers whose resource base is poor. To enable them to continue practising agriculture in the light of the ever-increasing cost of inputs, high price fluctuations, monsoon failures, withdrawal of other subsidies like fertilisers, and increased cost of cultivation, electricity used for agriculture is heavily subsidised under both pro rata and flat rate tariff regimes (Kumar et al 2010; Kumar et al 2011; Scott and Sharma 2009). It is essential to identify policy options that will help manage water supplies and energy use in agriculture. This paper hypothesises that practising water management technologies, particularly micro-irrigation, may help reduce water and energy use in agriculture,1 and examines whether that may be true.

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Updated On : 5th Apr, 2019

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