Climate mitigation policy implications for global irrigation water demand

  • Vaibhav ChaturvediEmail author
  • Mohamad Hejazi
  • James Edmonds
  • Leon Clarke
  • Page Kyle
  • Evan Davies
  • Marshall Wise
Original Article


Measures to limit greenhouse gas concentrations will result in dramatic changes to energy and land systems and in turn alter the character of human requirements for water. We employ the global change assessment model (GCAM), an integrated assessment model, to explore the interactions of energy, land, and water systems under combinations of three alternative radiative forcing stabilization levels and two carbon tax regimes. The paper analyzes two important research questions: i) how large may global irrigation water demands become over the next century, and ii) what are the potential impacts of emissions mitigation policies on global irrigation-water withdrawals. We find that increasing population and economic growth could more than double the demand for water for agricultural systems in the absence of climate policy, and policies to mitigate climate change further increase agricultural demands for water. The largest increases in agricultural irrigation water demand occur in scenarios where only fossil fuel emissions are priced (but not land use change emissions) and are primarily driven by rapid expansion in bio-energy production. Regions such as China, India, and other countries in South and East Asia are likely to experience the greatest increases in water demands. Finally, we test the sensitivity of water withdrawal demands to the share of bio-energy crops under irrigation and conclude that many regions have insufficient space for heavy bio-energy crop irrigation in the future—a result that calls into question the physical possibility of producing the associated biomass energy, especially under climate policy scenarios.


Agriculture water withdrawals Climate policy Integrated assessment Bio-energy 



The authors are grateful for research support provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The authors acknowledge long-term support for GCAM development from the Integrated Assessment Research Program in the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy. The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is operated for DOE by Battelle Memorial Institute under contract DE-AC05-76RL01830. The views and opinions expressed in this paper are those of the authors alone.

Supplementary material

11027_2013_9497_MOESM1_ESM.docx (63 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 63 kb)


  1. Alcamo J, Florke M, Marker M (2007) Future long term changes in global water resources driven by socio-economic and climatic changes. Hydrol Sci J 52:247–275CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aquastat:, as accessed on August 2, 2011
  3. Azar C (2005) Emerging scarcities–bioenergy-food competition in a carbon constrained world. In: Simpson R, et al. (eds) Scarcity and growth revisited, resources for the future. pp 98–119Google Scholar
  4. Berndes G (2002) Bioenergy and water- the implications of large scale bioenergy production for water use and supply. Glob Environ Chang 12:253–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Berndes G (2008) Water demand for global bioenergy production: trends, risks and opportunities. WBGU, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  6. Bruinsma J (2009) The resource outlook to 2050: how much do land, water and crop yields need to increase by 2050. Expert meeting on how to feed the world in 2050, Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations Economic and Social Development DepartmentGoogle Scholar
  7. Calvin K, Edmonds J, Bond-Lamberty B, Clarke L, Kim SH, Kyle P, Smith SJ, Thomson A, Wise M (2009) 2.6: limiting climate change to 450 ppm CO2 equivalent in the 21st century. Energy Econ 31(2):S107–S120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Calzadilla A, Rehdanz K, Tol RSJ (2010) The economic impact of more sustainable water use in agriculture: a computable general equilibrium analysis. J Hydrol 384:292–305CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chapagain AK, Hoekstra AY (2004) Water footprints of nations. UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education, Research report series no. 16Google Scholar
  10. Chaturvedi V, Hejazi MI, Edmonds JA, Clarke LE, Kyle GP, Davies E, Wise MA, Calvin KV (2013) Climate policy implications for agricultural water demand. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Technical Report PNNL- 22356. U.S. Department of Energy, Richland, WA, USAGoogle Scholar
  11. Clarke L, Lurz J, Wise M, Edmonds J, Kim S, Pitcher H, Smith S (2007) Model documentation for the MiniCAM climate change science program stabilization scenarios. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Technical Report PNNL-16735, CCSP Product 2.1a; U.S. Department of Energy, Richland, WA, USAGoogle Scholar
  12. Clarke L, Edmonds J, Krey V, Richels R, Rose S, Tavoni M (2009) International climate policy architectures: overview of the EMF 22 International Scenarios. Energy Econ 31(2):S64–S81CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. de Fraiture C, Wichelns D (2010) Satisfying future water demands for agriculture. Agric Water Manag 97(4):502–511CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Döll P (2004) Impact of climate change and variability on irrigation requirements: a global perspective. Clim Chang 54:269–293CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Döll P, Seibert S (2002) Global modeling of irrigation water requirements. Water Resour Res 38(4):8.1–8.10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Döll P, Kaspar F, Lehner B (2003) A global hydrological model for deriving water availability indicators: model tuning and validation. J Hydrol 270(1–2):105–134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Edmonds J, Reilly J (1985) Global energy: assessing the future. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  18. Edmonds J, Calvin K, Clarke L, Kyle P, Wise M (2012) Energy and technology lessons since Rio. Energy Econ 34:S7–S14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ehhalt D et al (2001) Chapter 4. Atmospheric chemistry and greenhouse gases. In: Houghton JT et al (eds) Climate change 2001: the scientific basis. Cambridge University Press, UKGoogle Scholar
  20. Fader M, Rost S, Muller C, Bondeau A, Gerten D (2010) Virtual water content of temperate cereals and maize: present and potential future patterns. J Hydrol 384(3–4):218–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) (2003) Agriculture, food and water. A contribution to the World Water Development reportGoogle Scholar
  22. Fischer G, Tubiello FN, van Velthuizen H, Wiberg DA (2007) Climate change impacts on irrigation water requirement: effects of mitigation, 1990–2080. Technol Forecast Soc Chang 74:1083–1107CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Geist HJ, Lambin EF (2002) Proximate causes and underlying driving forces of tropical deforestation. BioScience 52(2):143–150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gerbens-Leenes PW, Hoekstra AY, van der Meer TH (2009) The water footprint of energy from biomass: a quantitative assessment and consequences of an increasing share of bioenergy in energy supply. Ecol Econ 68:1052–1060CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gillingham KT, Smith SJ, Sands RD (2008) Impact of bioenergy crops in a carbon dioxide constrained world: an application of the MiniCAM energy-agriculture and land use model. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Chang 13:675–701CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Grassi G, den Elzen MGJ, Hof AF, Pilli R, Federici S (2012) The role of land use, land use change and forestry sector in achieving Annex I reduction pledges. Clim Chang 115:873–881CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hanasaki N, Inuzuka T, Kanae S, Oki T (2010) An estimation of global virtual water flow and sources of water withdrawal for major crops and livestock products using a global hydrological model. J Hydrol 384(3–4):232–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hanjra MA, Qureshi ME (2010) Global water crisis and food security in an era of climate change. Food Policy 35(5):365–377CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hejazi M, Edmonds J, Clarke L, Kyle P, Davies E, Chaturvedi V, Wise M, Patel P, Eom J, Calvin K, Moss R, Kim S (2013) Long-term global water projections using six socioeconomic scenarios in an integrated assessment modeling framework. Technological Forecasting & Social Change, In press, doi: 10.1016/j.techfore.2013.05.006 doi: 10.1016/j.techfore.2013.05.006#doilink
  30. Hoekstra AY, Mekonnen MM (2012) The water footprint of humanity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America,
  31. Hotelling H (1931) The economics of exhaustible resources. J Polit Econ 39:137–175CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. IPCC-AR4 (2007) Climate change 2007: synthesis report, contribution of working groups I, II and III to the fourth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Core writing team, Pachauri RK, Reisinger A (eds) IPCC, Geneva, Switzerland, p 104Google Scholar
  33. IPCC (2011) IPCC Special report on renewable energy sources and climate change mitigation. Prepared by working group III of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Edenhofer O, Pichs-Madruga R, Sokona Y, Seyboth K, Matschoss P, Kadner S, Zwickel T, Eickemeier P, Hansen G, Schlömer S, von Stechow C (eds). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, p. 1075Google Scholar
  34. Kyle P, Luckow P, Calvin K, Emanuel W, Nathan M, Zhou Y (2011). GCAM 3.0 agriculture and land use: data sources and methods.
  35. Leaky ADB, Ainsworth EA, Bernacchi CJ, Rogers A, Long SP, Ort DR (2009) Elevated CO2 effects on plant carbon, nitrogen, and water relations: six important lessons from FACE. J Exp Bot 60(10):2859–2876CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Liu J, Yang H (2010) Spatially explicit assessment of global consumptive water use in cropland. J Hydrol 384(3–4):187–197CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Luckow P, Wise MA, Dooley JJ, Kim SH (2010) Large-scale utilization of biomass energy and carbon dioxide capture and storage in the transport and electricity sectors under stringent CO2 concentration limit scenarios. Int J Greenh Gas Control 4:865–877CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. McCalla AF (2001) Challenges to world agriculture in the 21st Century. UPDATE: Agriculture and Resource Economics 4(3), University of California, Davis, USAGoogle Scholar
  39. McCarl BA, Schneider UA (2001) Greenhouse gas mitigation in U.S. agriculture and forestry. Science 294:2481–2482CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Mekonnen MM, Hoekstra AY (2010) The green, blue and grey water footprint of crops and derived crop products. Value of Water Research Report Series No. 47, UNESCO-IHE, Delft, the NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  41. Mekonnen MM, Hoekstra AY (2011) The green, blue and grey water footprint of crops and derived crop products. Hydrol Earth Syst Sci 15:1577–1600CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Melillo JM, Reilly JM, Kicklighter DW, Gurgel AC, Cronin TW, Paltsev S, Felzer BS, Wang X, Sokolov AP, Schlosser CA (2009) Indirect emissions from biofuels: how important? Science 326(5958):1397–1399CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Molden D et al (2007) Trends in water and agricultural development. In: Molden D (ed) Water for food water for life: a comprehensive assessment of water management in agriculture. Earthscan, London, pp 57–89Google Scholar
  44. Monfreda C, Ramankutty N, Hertel T (2009) Global agricultural land use data for climate change analysis. In: Hertel T, Rose S, Tol R (eds) Economic analysis of land use in global climate change policy. RoutledgeGoogle Scholar
  45. Nakicenovic N, Swart R (eds) (2000) IPCC special report on emissions scenarios. Cambridge University Press, UKGoogle Scholar
  46. Ozdogan M (2011) Exploring the potential contribution of irrigation to global agriculture primary productivity. Global Biogeochem Cycles 25, GB3016CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Peck S, Wan W (1996) Analytic solutions of simple greenhouse gas emission models. In: Van Ierland E, Gorka K (eds) Economics of atmospheric pollution. Springer Verlag, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  48. Postel S (1998) Water for food production: will there be enough in 2025? BioScience 48(8):629–637CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Postel SL, Daily GC, Ehrlich PR (1996) Human appropriation of renewable fresh water. Science 271(5250):785–788CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Rockstrom J, Falkenmark M, Karlberg L, Hoff H, Rost S, Gerten D (2009) Future water availability for global food production: the potential of green water for increasing resilience to global change. Water Resour Res 45(7):W00A12Google Scholar
  51. Rokityanskiy D, Benítez PC, Kraxner F, McCallum I, Obersteiner M, Rametsteiner E, Yamagata Y (2007) Geographically explicit global modeling of land use change, carbon sequestration, and biomass supply. Technol Forecast Soc Chang 74(7):1057–1082CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Rosegrant MW, Cai X, Cline SA (2002) Global water outlook to 2025: averting an impending crisis. International Food Policy Research Institute and International Institute of Water ManagementGoogle Scholar
  53. Rosegrant MW, Msangi S, Ringler C, Sulser TB, Zhu T, Cline SA (2008) International Model for Policy Analysis of Agricultural Commodities and Trade (IMPACT): model description. International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, DC. <>
  54. Rost S, Gerten D, Bondeau A, Lucht W, Rohwer J, Schaphoff S (2008) Agriculture green and blue water consumption and its influence on the global water system. Water Resour Res 44, W09405CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Schmitz C, Lotze-Campen H, Gerten D, Dietrich PJ, Bodirsky B, Beiwald A, Popp A (2013) Blue water scarcity and the economic impacts of future agricultural trade and demand. Water Resources Research, AcceptedGoogle Scholar
  56. Seibert T, Döll P (2010) Quantifying blue and green virtual water contents in global crop water production as well as potential production losses without irrigation. J Hydrol 384:198–217CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Shen Y, Oki T, Utsumi N, Kanae S, Hanasaki N (2008) Projection of future world water resources under SRES scenarios: water withdrawal. Hydrol Sci J 53:11–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Shiklomanov IA (2000) World water use & water availability. State Hydrological Institute (SHI). (’3/_Read’me.html)
  59. Syri S, Lehtila A, Ekholm T, Savolainen I, Holttinen H, Peltola E (2008) Global energy and emission scenarios for effective climate change mitigation- deterministic and stochastic scenarios with the TIAM model. Int J Greenh Gas Control 2(2):274–285Google Scholar
  60. The 2030 Water Resources Group (2009) Charting our water future: economic frameworks to inform decision making. Accessed on January 2011 from
  61. Thomson A, Calvin K, Smith S, Kyle G, Volke A, Patel P, Delgado-Arias S, Bond-Lamberty B, Wise M, Clarke L, Edmonds J (2011) RCP4.5: a pathway for stabilization of radiative forcing by 2100. Clim Chang 109:77–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Van Vuuren D, Edmonds JA, Kainuma M, Riahi K, Thomson AM, Hibbard KA, Hurtt G, Kram T, Krey V, Lamarque JF, Masui T, Meinhausen M, Nakicenovic N, Smith SJ, Rose SK (2011) The representative concentration pathways: an overview. Clim Chang 109:5–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Varghese S (2007) Biofuels and global water challenges. Institute for Agriculture Trade and Policy, USAGoogle Scholar
  64. Wise MA, Calvin K (2011) GCAM 3.0 agriculture and land use modeling: technical description of modeling approach.
  65. Wise MA, Calvin KV, Thomson AM, Clarke LE, Bond-Lamberty B, Sands RD, Smith SJ, Janetos AJ, Edmonds JA (2009) The implications of limiting CO2 concentrations for land use and energy. Science 324:1183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Wisser D, Frolking S, Douglas EM, Fekete BM, Vorosmarty CJ, Schumann AH (2008) Global irrigation water demand: uncertainties arising from agricultural and climate data sets. Geophys Res Lett 35, L24408CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Wisser D, Frolking S, Douglas EM, Fekete BM, Schumann AH, Vorosmarty CJ (2010) The significance of local water resources captured in small reservoirs for crop production- a global scale analysis. J Hydrol 384(3–4):264–275CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. WRI (World Resources Institute) (2000) Water resources and freshwater ecosystems—agricultural inputs: water use intensity, (Accessed 2011)

Copyright information

© © Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht (outside the USA) 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vaibhav Chaturvedi
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mohamad Hejazi
    • 1
  • James Edmonds
    • 1
  • Leon Clarke
    • 1
  • Page Kyle
    • 1
  • Evan Davies
    • 2
  • Marshall Wise
    • 1
  1. 1.Joint Global Change Research InstituteCollege ParkUSA
  2. 2.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

Personalised recommendations