27 June, 2022

Accounting for socioeconomic constraints in sustainable irrigation expansion assessments


Nicole van Maanen, Marina Andrijevic, Quentin Lejeune, Lorenzo Rosa, Tabea Lissner and Carl-Friedrich Schleussner

Sustainable irrigation expansion over water limited croplands is an important measure to enhance agricultural yields and increase the resilience of crop production to global warming. While existing global assessments of irrigation expansion mainly illustrate the biophysical potential for irrigation, socioeconomic factors such as weak governance or low income, that demonstrably impede the successful implementation of sustainable irrigation, remain largely underexplored.

Here we provide five scenarios of sustainable irrigation deployment in the 21st century integrated into the framework of Shared Socioeconomic Pathways, which account for biophysical irrigation limits and socioeconomic constraints. We find that the potential for sustainable irrigation expansion implied by biophysical limits alone is considerably reduced when socioeconomic factors are considered.