Climate Smart Agriculture Sourcebook

Water management for Climate-Smart Agriculture

Production and Resources


A typology or major agricultural systems at risk and response options

Major agricultural systems

Sub-system and location


Typical response options

Main climate options change exposure


Adaptive capacity


Densely populated highlands in poor areas: Himalayas, Andes, Central American highlands, Rift Valley, Ethiopian plateau, Southern Africa

Rainfall variability, droughts, floods

High: mostly rainfed agriculture, marginal lands, poor soil moisture capacity

Low: high prevalence of poverty, limited options, knowledge, social safety nets and resources

Watershed management and onfarm water storage for water conservation; integrated water resources management in river basins; investment in social infrastructures

Semi-arid tropics

Smallholder farming in Western, Eastern and Southern Africa savannah region and in Southern India; agro-pastoral systems in the Sahel, Horn of Africa and Western India

High temperatures, rainfall variability, droughts

High: crop and animal sensitivity to high temperature and droughts, high population density on marginal lands

Low: high prevalence of poverty, limited options, knowledge, social safety nets and resources, limited capacity for water storage

On-farm water storage; crop insurance; increased productivity through better crop-livestock integration; integrated water resources management


Densely populated and intensively cultivated areas, concentrated mainly around the Mediterranean basin

Reduction in annual rainfall, increased rainfall variability, reduction in runoff and aquifer recharge, high temperatures, higher occurrance of droughts and floods

Variable, depending on the region and level on reliance on agricultural activities. Agricultural systems highly sensitive to changes in temperature and water availability.

Low adaptive capacity for agriculture in water scarce areas

Water conservation where possible; integrated water resources management; crop insurance; improved floods and drought management plans; shifting out of agriculture

Temperate areas

Highly intensive agriculture in Western Europe. Intensive farming in United States, Eastern China, Turkey, New Zealand, parts of India, Southern Africa, Brazil

Increased rainfall variability, reduced water availability in places.

Medium to low. Some high yielding varieties more sensitive totemperature and water stress

Possibilities to compensate water stress through supplemental irrigation in many regions; low capacity in water scarce areas

On-farm storage for supplemental irrigation; integrated water resources management at river basin level

Rice-based systems (irrigated)

Southeast and Eastern Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar, Western Africa, Eastern Africa

Increased rainfall variability, increased rainfall, increased occurrence of droughts and floods

Medium, depending on the capacity to cope with floods and droughts

Medium, depending on the capacity to invest in protection against droughts and floods

Increased water storage for flood control and for second and third crop; alternate wet-dry rice production systems where feasible

Large irrigation systems in dry areas (mostly canal irrigation)

Colorado River, Murray Darling, Krishna, Indo- Gangetic plains, Northern China, Northern Africa and the Middle East

Change in seasonality of runoff and groundwater recharge and progressive reduction in runoff in snowmelt systems; reduction of rainfall and runoff in Northern Africa and Middle East, higher occurrence of droughts and floods

High sensitivity to variations and reduction in water supply as most areas are already under water stress

Low due to already heavy pressure on water resources. Limited possibilities in places through increased storage and increased water productivity through conservation measures

Increased water storage and drainage; improved reservoir operations; changes in crop and land use; improved soil management; water demand management including groundwater management and salinity control; revision of flood management plans

Groundwaterbased irrigation systems in interior arid plains

India, China, central USA, Australia, North Africa, Middle East and others

Complex interactions between climate change and groundwater leading to possibilities of increase or decrease of aquifer recharge

High sensitivity to variations and reduction in water supply as most areas are already under water stress

Low due to overexploitation of aquifers and competition with other sectors. Limited possibilities in places through increased water productivity.

Increased productivity where possible; better groundwater management through controlled pumping


Pastoral and grazing lands, including on fragile soils in Western Africa (Sahel), North Africa, parts of Asia

High temperatures, rainfall variability, droughts

High sensitivity due to reliance on biomass and water for livestock

Very low: high prevalence of poverty, limited options, knowledge, social safety nets and resources

Where possible, better integration of water supply and grazing land management; reduction of livestock density


Nile delta, Red River delta, Ganges/Brahmaputra, Mekong, ect. and coastal alluvial plains: Arabian Peninsula, Eastern China, Bight of Benin, Gulf of Mexico

Sea level rise and salinisation of aquifers and estuaries. Higher frequency of cyclones (E/SE Asia); increased frequency and intensity of floods

Usually high, depending on population density and the capacity to cope with floods, droughts and salinity levels


Minimise infrastructure development; better conjunctive use of surface water and groundwater; integrated flood management plans; improved management of coastal aquifers

Small islands and coastal alluvial plains

Including Caribbean, Pacific Islands

Hurricanes, sea-level rise, floods, changes in aquifer recharge

High sensitivity due to fragile aquifers, saltwater intrusion


Improved management of coastal aquifers; disaster risk reduction plans; water conservation

Peri-urban agriculture


Depending on location

Relatively low

Highly adaptive and dynamic systems

Climate change is rarely the prime source of risk. Actions would focus on competition for water and land with cities, pollution control and health issues