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Tapping two sources: Farmers’ conjunctive use of groundwater and surface water in North West China

Research domain:
Natural resource use

Project duration:
01.09.2012 - 24.10.2016

In North China, the exploitation of groundwater for agricultural production has increased rapidly over the last half a century, mainly in areas originally irrigated with surface water. Although groundwater pumping has a positive impact on rural wealth, it often has a detrimental effect on the sustainability of local water use. It is argued that a more coordinated approach for the management of surface water and groundwater supply and storage – so-called conjunctive management – will lead to more sustainable, adaptive resource use.

This research intends to analyze the effect of local groundwater and surface water policies on farmers’ water use. Based on a household survey carried out in three inland river basins in Northwest China, we will determine what physical water access indicators and what institutional water access indicators are most critical for farmers’ water use decisions. In addition to the household survey, interviews with water authorities and key informants will provide insight into policies and institutions at the watershed level. By comparing watershed-level policies with farm-level outcomes, we will examine to what extent conjunctive management is brought into practice.


  • Gansu Academy of Social Sciences, China Website
  • University of Glasgow, United Kingdom Website
  • Wageningen University, The Netherlands Website