IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this book chapter

The Economics of Water, Irrigation, and Development


  • Schoengold, Karina
  • Zilberman, David


The post-World War II era has witnessed a drastic increase in irrigation activities that have contributed substantially to the massive growth in agricultural production that enables humanity to feed its doubling population. However, a distinction has to be made between the overall positive contribution of irrigation to agricultural productivity and economic welfare and the significant amount of misallocation and mismanagement of resources that have accompanied the expansion of irrigation. In many cases, water resources have been overdeveloped; there has been overspending on capital; and significant costs in terms of loss of ecosystems, extinction of fish species, and contamination of water sources. This chapter provides an economic perspective on the contribution of irrigation and water resources to past agricultural development and future water resource management. The efficiency of water use is affected by decisions made at many levels. The inefficiencies that can occur at different levels of water management are discussed in this chapter. The analysis first considers irrigation water use by an individual, and then moves to the importance of regional management. The importance of dynamic considerations about the future, and the role of interregional management are then covered. Together, these sections present an economic framework for designing water institutions and policies to improve water resource allocation and prevent some of the current inefficiency in water resource systems. The second part of the chapter provides an overview of the benefits and costs that have been realized through agricultural water and irrigation projects in developing countries. There is a paucity of ex-post integrated assessments of these projects, so the chapter puts the pieces together, combining data with conceptual arguments.

Suggested Citation

  • Schoengold, Karina & Zilberman, David, 2007. "The Economics of Water, Irrigation, and Development," Handbook of Agricultural Economics, Elsevier.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:hagchp:5-58

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Banerji, A. & Meenakshi, J.V. & Khanna, Gauri, 2012. "Social contracts, markets and efficiency: Groundwater irrigation in North India," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 98(2), pages 228-237.
    2. A.Banerji & Gauri Khanna & J.V. Meenakshi, 2006. "Markets, Institutions And Efficiency Groundwater Irrigation In North India," Working papers 152, Centre for Development Economics, Delhi School of Economics.
    3. Xie, Yang & Zilberman, David, 2015. "Water-Storage Capacities versus Water-Use Efficiency: Substitutes or Complements?," 2015 Conference, August 9-14, 2015, Milan, Italy 211894, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
    4. Ignacio Lozano-Espitia & Juan Camilo Restrepo Salazar, 2016. "El papel de la infraestructura rural en el desarrollo agrícola en Colombia," COYUNTURA ECONÓMICA, FEDESARROLLO, vol. 46(1), pages 107-147, June.
    5. Jonathan Yoder & Micheal Brady & Joseph Cook, 2016. "Water Markets and Storage — Substitutes or Complements for Drought Risk Mitigation?," Water Economics and Policy (WEP), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 2(02), pages 1-21, June.
    6. repec:spr:endesu:v:19:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s10668-016-9793-8 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Schoengold, Karina & Zilberman, David, 2004. "Is Equity A Constraint? Applications To Block Rate And Other Pricing Schemes With Heterogeneous Users," 2004 Annual meeting, August 1-4, Denver, CO 19945, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
    8. Shanxia Sun & Juan P. Sesmero & Karina Schoengold, 2016. "The role of common pool problems in irrigation inefficiency: a case study in groundwater pumping in Mexico," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 47(1), pages 117-127, January.
    9. Kampas, Athanasios & Petsakos, Athanasios & Rozakis, Stelios, 2012. "Price induced irrigation water saving: Unraveling conflicts and synergies between European agricultural and water policies for a Greek Water District," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 113(C), pages 28-38.
    10. Vicente Ruiz, 2016. "Groundwater Overdraft, Electricity, and Wrong Incentives: Evidence from Mexico," Working Papers 2016.05, FAERE - French Association of Environmental and Resource Economists.
    11. Dewbre, Joshua, 2010. "Improving resource allocation and incomes in Vietnamese agriculture," IFPRI discussion papers 984, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

    More about this item


    Farmers; Farm Production and Farm Markets;

    JEL classification:

    • Q1 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:hagchp:5-58. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.