Electricity for groundwater use: constraints and opportunities for adaptive response to climate change

Publicado en Environmental Research Letters, v. 8(3):035005

Scott, C.A.

Año de publicación 2013
DOI https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/8/3/035005

School of Geography and Development, and Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy,University of Arizona, 803 East First Street, Tucson, AZ 85719, USA



Proyecto CRN3056


Globally, groundwater use is intensifying to meet demands for irrigation, urban supply, industrialization, and, in some instances, electrical power generation. In response to hydroclimatic variability, surface water is being substituted with groundwater, which must be viewed as a strategic resource for climate adaptation. In this sense, the supply of electricity for pumping is an adaptation policy tool. Additionally, planning for climate-change mitigation must consider CO2 emissions resulting from pumping. This paper examines the influence of electricity supply and pricing on groundwater irrigation and resulting emissions, with specific reference to Mexico&mdasha climate&ndashwater&ndashenergy 'perfect storm'. Night-time power supply at tariffs below the already-subsidized rates for agricultural groundwater use has caused Mexican farmers to increase pumping, reversing important water and electricity conservation gains achieved. Indiscriminate groundwater pumping, including for virtual water exports of agricultural produce, threatens the long-term sustainability of aquifers, non-agricultural water uses, and stream&ndashaquifer interactions that sustain riparian ecosystems. Emissions resulting from agricultural groundwater pumping in Mexico are estimated to be 3.6% of total national emissions and are equivalent to emissions from transporting the same agricultural produce to market. The paper concludes with an assessment of energy, water, and climate trends coupled with policy futures to address these challenges.