The Impact of Water Scarcity on Food, Bioenergy and Deforestation

25 Pages Posted: 6 Jul 2018

See all articles by Niven Winchester

Niven Winchester

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change

Kirby Ledvina

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Kenneth Strzepek

University of Colorado at Boulder; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

John M. Reilly

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change

Date Written: July 2018

Abstract

We evaluate the impact of explicitly representing irrigated land and water scarcity in an economy‐wide model with and without a global carbon policy. The analysis develops supply functions of irrigable land from a water resource model for 282 river basins and applies them within a global economy‐wide model. The analysis reveals two key findings. First, explicitly representing irrigated land has a small impact on global food, bioenergy and deforestation outcomes. This is because this modification allows irrigated and rainfed land to expand in different proportions, which counters the effect of rising marginal costs for the expansion of irrigated land. Second, changes in water availability have small impacts on global food prices, bioenergy production, land use change and the overall economy, even with large‐scale (c. 150 exajoules) bioenergy production, due in part to endogenous irrigation and storage responses. However, representing water scarcity and changes in water availability can be important regionally, with relatively arid areas and/or areas with rapidly growing populations fully exhausting our estimated maximum irrigation capacity that allows for improved irrigation efficiency, lining of canals to limit water loss, and expanding storage to fully capture average annual water flows.

Keywords: bioenergy, climate change, food, irrigation, water

Suggested Citation

Winchester, Niven and Ledvina, Kirby and Strzepek, Kenneth and Reilly, John M., The Impact of Water Scarcity on Food, Bioenergy and Deforestation (July 2018). Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Vol. 62, Issue 3, pp. 327-351, 2018. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3208410 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-8489.12257

Niven Winchester (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change ( email )

E19-429
77 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States

Kirby Ledvina

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

77 Massachusetts Avenue
50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States

Kenneth Strzepek

University of Colorado at Boulder ( email )

1070 Edinboro Drive
Boulder, CO 80309
United States

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

John M. Reilly

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change ( email )

E19-429
77 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States
617-253-8040 (Phone)

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