Groundwater depletion limits the scope for adaptation to increased rainfall variability in India

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Abstract

Recent studies have found that increasing intra-seasonal precipitation variability will lead to substantial reductions in rice production in India by 2050, independently of the effect of rising temperatures. However, these projections do not account for the possibility of adaptations, of which the expansion of irrigation is the primary candidate. Using historical data on irrigation, rice yields, and precipitation, I show that irrigated locations experience much lower damages from increasing precipitation variability, suggesting that the expansion of irrigation could protect Indian agriculture from this future threat. However, accounting for physical water availability shows that under current irrigation practices, sustainable use of irrigation water can mitigate less than a tenth of the climate change impact. Moreover, if India continues to deplete its groundwater resources, the impacts of increased variability are likely to increase by half.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-209
Number of pages15
JournalClimatic Change
Volume147
Issue number 1-2
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2018

Keywords

  • Adaptation
  • Agriculture
  • Climate change
  • Irrigation
  • Rainfall variability
  • Water Resources

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