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Water 2014, 6(4), 778-795; doi:10.3390/w6040778
Article

Do Estimates of Water Productivity Enhance Understanding of Farm-Level Water Management?

Received: 8 January 2014 / Revised: 28 February 2014 / Accepted: 17 March 2014 / Published: 27 March 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Water Policy, Productivity and Economic Efficiency)
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Abstract

Estimates of water productivity are appearing with increasing frequency in the literature pertaining to agronomy, water management, and water policy. Some authors report such estimates as one of the outcome variables of experiment station studies, while others calculate water productivities when comparing regional crop production information. Many authors suggest or imply that higher values of water productivity are needed to ensure that future food production goals are achieved. Yet maximizing water productivity might not be consistent with farm-level goals or with societal objectives regarding water allocation and management. Farmers in both rainfed and irrigated settings must address a complex set of issues pertaining to risk, uncertainty, prices, and opportunity costs, when selecting activities and determining optimal strategies. It is not clear that farmers in either setting will or should choose to maximize water productivity. Upon examining water productivity, both conceptually and empirically, using published versions of crop production functions, I conclude that estimates of water productivity contain too little information to enhance understanding of farm-level water management.
Keywords: economics; smallholders; irrigation; production functions; risk; uncertainty economics; smallholders; irrigation; production functions; risk; uncertainty
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Wichelns, D. Do Estimates of Water Productivity Enhance Understanding of Farm-Level Water Management? Water 2014, 6, 778-795.

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