Water Resources Management

, Volume 26, Issue 11, pp 3285–3300 | Cite as

Exploring Synergies Between Hardware and Software Interventions on Water Savings in China: Farmers’ Response to Water Usage and Crop Production



Evidence is presented on synergies due to the sequencing and packaging of water reforms based on a review of case studies from the Zhanghe Irrigation System (ZIS) in the Yangtze River basin in China. Faced with strategic challenges of economic growth, food security, population growth, and climate change, China has implemented numerous hardware and software interventions in the water sector to increase the availability of water. These interventions—ranging from the provincial and system level to farm and field level—allow reallocation of water from agriculture to higher value uses, without significant reduction in crop production. This review of selected hardware and software interventions suggests that water sector reforms generate significant benefits for peasant farming communities and local governments. The review indicates that all agents respond to the same set of incentives simultaneously, by changing production and resource use decisions such that cumulative benefits from hardware and software interventions reinforce synergies. Synergies from reforms are evident, yet scaling up local collective actions for optimal impact is problematic. Heterogeneity in socioeconomic factors, as well as spatial differences, are the main stumbling blocks. Rewarding reformers seems to work, yet the benefits are neither immediate nor straight forward. Local implementation of national policies requires a systematic and coherent framework suited to the level of economic development of each region in order to achieve synergies from water reforms.


Zhanghe Irrigation System Collective action Water sector reforms Synergies Water saving irrigation practices Rice 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Australian Centre for Sustainable CatchmentsUniversity of Southern QueenslandToowoombaAustralia

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