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Groundwater governance and the water-energy-food nexus in action: a global review of policy and practice

SOLAW21 Technical background report









Shah, T. 2023. Groundwater governance and the water-energy-food nexus in action: a global review of policy and practice. SOLAW 21 Technical background report. Rome, FAO.




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    If a decision is made at the national level to increase the share of bioenergy, what implications does this have for water, land and energy? How do electricity subsidies contribute to groundwater depletion and what can be done about it? How can we ensure that sectoral policies and strategies consider the potential trade-offs for other sectors? Finding answers to these questions is the main challenge of the Water-Energy-Food Nexus. By describing the complex and interrelated nature of our global r esource systems, the Nexus approach helps us to better understand and systematically analyze how we can use and manage our resources in light of different, often competing interests and goals.
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    In recent years, solar-powered irrigation has become increasingly attractive to countries as a reliable, clean-energy solution for agricultural water management, especially in areas with low elevation topography and high solar radiation incidence levels. With investment costs for solar-powered irrigation systems (SPIS) decreasing, SPIS technologies are helping farmers reap a double benefit: more affordable irrigation and more consistent water availability. These technologies have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per unit of energy used for water pumping by more than 95 percent, compared to alternatives dependent on diesel or fossil-fuel driven electricity grids. In water scarce countries, the provision of more affordable energy for the pumping of groundwater for irrigated agriculture can result in problems of groundwater depletion and quality deterioration. Thus, there is a need to think more systematically on the scalability of SPIS at national and local levels and the regulatory frameworks required. This project aimed at strengthening the institutional energy, water and planning capacities in Gambia, Kenya, Mali and Uganda as pilot countries, from which the project could position a series of policy and technical prescriptions to other sub-Saharan African countries, hence catalyzing regional coordination and knowledge exchange efforts. In light of the Strategic and Operational Plan of the Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture of the African Union (AU-DREA) calling for support to AU Member States in applying the Principles of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), the project – with the AU-DREA as the governmental authority requesting the technical assistance – represents a concrete response to this call to action. The SPIS represent an untapped opportunity, and by mainstreaming and investing in these innovative irrigation systems, sub-Saharan African countries can simultaneously work towards agricultural development, gainful employment, rural poverty reduction and the sustainable management of natural resources, especially water.
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