Assessing India’s drip-irrigation boom: efficiency, climate change and groundwater policy

Trevor Birkenholtz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article draws on a case from the north-western Indian state of Rajasthan to examine whether drip irrigation saves water. Drip irrigation is being promoted to preserve groundwater and enhance resilience to climate change. However, the article finds that in the absence of regulations over groundwater abstraction, farmers acquire drip irrigation to intensify production rather than to conserve water. This occurs in a political and economic context where farmers are incentivized to do so, further exacerbating groundwater overdraft. The article concludes with a discussion of drip irrigation’s impact on farmers’ livelihoods and its implications for groundwater policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)663-677
Number of pages15
JournalWater International
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 18 2017


  • Drip irrigation
  • India
  • Rajasthan
  • climate change
  • efficiency
  • groundwater policy
  • political ecology
  • political economy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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