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Policy Forum Pod: The dangerous paradox of irrigation efficiency

29 August 2018

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Quentin Grafton is Director of the Centre for Water Economics, Environment and Policy (CWEEP) at Crawford School of Public Policy. In April 2010 he was appointed the Chairholder, the UNESCO Chair in Water Economics and Transboundary Water Governance.

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On this week’s podcast, we chat to two authors of a new paper looking at how ill-advised irrigation efficiency efforts could be sinking our chance of solving the world’s water problems.

As much as 70 per cent of all water extracted in the world is used for irrigation. But what if it were discovered that irrigation policies intended to increase efficiency and therefore save water could, in fact, be doing the exact opposite? On this episode of Policy Forum Pod, hosts Maya Bhandari and Bob Cotton hear from Quentin Grafton and Sarah Wheeler, two authors of a new paper published in Science: ‘The Paradox of Irrigation Efficiency’. Topics discussed include the Murray-Darling Basin, why regulatory bodies are so often captured by industry – and how our water policies have left us up the creek without a paddle.

Listen to the podcast here.

Quentin Grafton is Professor of Economics at Crawford School, an ANU Public Policy Fellow, and Director of the Centre for Water Economics, Environment and Policy. He is also Editor-in-Chief of Policy Forum.

Professor Sarah Wheeler is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow and the Associate Director of Research with the Centre for Global Food and Resources at the University of Adelaide.

Show notes | The following were referred to in this episode:

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Policy Forum Pod is available on iTunes, Stitcher, and wherever you get your podcasts. We’d love to hear your feedback for this podcast series! Send in your questions, comments, or suggestions for future episodes to You can also Tweet us @APPSPolicyForum or find us on Facebook.

This episode of Policy Forum Pod was written and produced by Maya Bhandari, Martyn Pearce, and Nicky Lovegrove.

This post and podcast was first published on, Crawford School’s platform for public policy debate, analysis, views, and discussion.

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