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Rural Water Saving Technology Adoption in Northern China: An Analysis of Survey Data


  • Blanke, Amelia
  • Rozelle, Scott
  • Lohmar, Bryan
  • Wang, Jinxia
  • Huang, Jikun


Sustainable use of water resources in the face of population and economic growth is of great importance in northern China, as it is in much of the world. Rapid expansion of irrigated agricultural and urban demand is depleting groundwater and overexploiting surface water resources in northern China. Despite substantial investment in the development of water saving technology and the potential impact of widespread adoption, there has been little research on the extent of adoption in northern China or the conditions under which water saving technology is adopted. This paper uses data from two recent surveys in northern China to measure the extent of water saving technology adoption and to analyze the determinants of this adoption. The technologies we analyze include traditional technologies (border and furrow irrigation and field leveling), household level technologies (surface pipes, plastic film, drought resistant varieties and retain stubble low till), and community level technologies (underground pipe, lined surface canals and sprinklers). We find that levels of adoption of water saving technology in northern China have increased as water has become increasingly scarce. What is surprising, however, is that the extent of adoption is quite low. Moreover, both the rate and extent of adoption vary substantially across technologies. Of the different types of technologies, household-based technologies have grown most rapidly and traditional technologies have the highest rates of adoption. While we do not have a definitive answer why the adoption of these technologies are higher than other types, it appears that the most successful technologies have been those that are highly divisible, low cost and do not require collective action or large fixed investments. Technologies that do not fit this description are adopted on a limited scale, which we believe in part is due to the failure of policy makers to overcome the constraints to adoption. In addition, producers also fail to adopt water saving technologies because of the lack of strong incentives to save water, inadequate information, and difficulty overcoming collective action constraints. If the incentives and government-provided services can be delivered to those in water scarce areas, according to our paper there is a great deal of scope to conserve water and support China's agricultural sector despite tight water supplies.

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  • Blanke, Amelia & Rozelle, Scott & Lohmar, Bryan & Wang, Jinxia & Huang, Jikun, 2005. "Rural Water Saving Technology Adoption in Northern China: An Analysis of Survey Data," 2005 Annual meeting, July 24-27, Providence, RI 19437, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:aaea05:19437

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Li, Feng-Min & Wang, Ping & Wang, Jun & Xu, Jin-Zhang, 2004. "Effects of irrigation before sowing and plastic film mulching on yield and water uptake of spring wheat in semiarid Loess Plateau of China," Agricultural Water Management, Elsevier, vol. 67(2), pages 77-88, June.
    2. Abdulai, Awudu & Glauben, Thomas & Herzfeld, Thomas & Zhou, Shudong, 2005. "Water Saving Technology in Chinese Rice Production - Evidence from Survey Data," 2005 International Congress, August 23-27, 2005, Copenhagen, Denmark 24708, European Association of Agricultural Economists.
    3. Huang, Qiuqiong & Rozelle, Scott & Lohmar, Bryan & Huang, Jikun & Wang, Jinxia, 2006. "Irrigation, agricultural performance and poverty reduction in China," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 30-52, February.
    4. Lohmar, Bryan & Wang, Jinxia & Rozelle, Scott & Huang, Jikun & Dawe, David, 2003. "China'S Agricultural Water Policy Reforms: Increasing Investment, Resolving Conflicts, And Revising Incentives," Agricultural Information Bulletins 33643, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    5. Jeffrey M. Peterson & Ya Ding, 2005. "Economic Adjustments to Groundwater Depletion in the High Plains: Do Water-Saving Irrigation Systems Save Water?," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 87(1), pages 147-159.
    6. Scott Rozelle & Johan F.M. Swinnen, 2004. "Success and Failure of Reform: Insights from the Transition of Agriculture," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 42(2), pages 404-456, June.
    7. Wang, Jinxia & Huang, Jikun & Rozelle, Scott, 2005. "Evolution of tubewell ownership and production in the North China Plain," Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society, vol. 49(2), June.
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    1. Rejesus, Roderick M. & Palis, Florencia G. & Rodriguez, Divina Gracia P. & Lampayan, Ruben M. & Bouman, Bas A.M., 2011. "Impact of the alternate wetting and drying (AWD) water-saving irrigation technique: Evidence from rice producers in the Philippines," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 280-288, April.

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