Examining Large-Scale Irrigation

An MIT team is providing new understanding of the growing interconnections among three critical resources: energy, water and food. The work focuses on Pakistan's Indus Basin, where irrigation water is increasingly pumped from underground, a practice that is intensifying a preexisting shortage of energy. Using new and existing data plus statistical models, the researchers are clarifying how much pumping is going on, how it's affecting energy use and food productivity, and where and why it's happening in this region — home of the world's largest contiguous network of river-fed irrigation canals. A dynamic model under development will enable decision makers to assess the long-term, interacting impacts on energy, water, and food of proposed infrastructure and policy initiatives, taking into account the possible long-term impacts of climate change on water management.

Professor James Wescoat of the Department of Architecture and Research Scientist Afreen Siddiqi of the Engineering Systems Division have been examining and clarifying the growing interconnections among energy, water and food, with a special focus on the Indus basin in Pakistan, where all three resources are in short supply.

[Excerpted from the Spring 2013 issue of Energy Futures, the magazine of the MIT Energy Initiative.]