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Study reassesses the effect of water-saving irrigation over globe in the past 40 years


Water shortage is one of main concerns in today's world. Given that crop irrigation accounts for ~70% of global water consumption, reducing crop irrigation by water-saving technologies is considered as an important method to relieve water shortage.


However, the growing application of water-saving technologies is found rarely accompanied with the increase of water availability because water saved at a field scale does not necessarily reduce water consumption at a regional scale. The regional reassessment of water savings is necessary to help better understanding the dilemmas. So far, it is still lack of global reassessment due to the difficulties of quantifying irrigation variables.


A study, published in Agricultural Water Management on March 2021, reassessed the effect of water-saving irrigation from 1980s to 2010s across the world and four hot-spot irrigation regions.  The study was conducted by a team from the Center for Agricultural Resources Research (CARR) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.


the researcher used satellite-based ET partition data and varied irrigated area, provides a novelty method to quantify irrigation variables.


Globally, crop irrigation has kept increasing and over 50% of increase has been induced by "new" irrigated lands that expanded over the past 4 decades. Meanwhile, in "old" irrigated lands, the increase of crop transpiration exceeds the reduced soil evaporation that has been caused by water-saving technologies.


As consequence, both the increase of crop transpiration in "old" irrigated lands and the expansion of "new" irrigated lands together lead to the paradox of irrigation efficiency across the world.


The global evidence proves the wide existence of the paradox of irrigation efficiency, and calls for better management considering both the increase of irrigation efficiency and regional water accounting.


This work has been published as an article entitled "Did water-saving irrigation protect water resources over the past 40 years? A global analysis based on water accounting framework" in Agricultural Water Management.

Article link:




ZHOU Xinyao E-mail: zhouxy@sjziam.ac.cn

 Center for Agricultural Resources Research (CARR), Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology of CAS; http://english.sjziam.cas.cn/


Figure:The impact of different irrigation mode (a) and water savings at both field and regional scale (b). (Credit:Xinyao Zhou)


Sprinkler irrigation equipment in potato fields in Zhangjiakou, China. (photoed by Xinyao Zhou)