The Yellow River Basin (YRB) is the breadbasket of China. Rural areas constitute a major center of grain and cotton production, and, as a result, rural wealth is highly dependent on access to irrigation water. A changing climate and increasing competition from the urban and industrial sectors as well as the implementation of province-level water withdrawal quotas equivalent to 37 km3 since 1999 described below threaten the agricultural sector’s sustained access to water resources.
Over the past 50 years, agricultural water use in the YRB has increased by more than 250 percent. Over the past several decades, however, water has been gradually reallocated from agriculture to industry and urban areas. As a result, the share of total water used by agriculture decreased from more than 97 percent in 1949 to less than 70 percent in 2006.
This project note is based on a report that analyzes the impact of laws, irrigation management reform, and water rights and pricing on water use efficiency, water productivity, and farmers’ incomes in the Yellow River Basin.