IWMI Publishes Policy Brief on Water Implications of Biofuel Crops

International Water Management Institute (IWMI) December 2008: The International Water Management Institute (IWMI), a member of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), published a policy brief entitled “Water Implications of Biofuel Crops: Understanding Tradeoffs and Identifying Options.” The Brief outlines impacts of biofuel production on water supply and food production, and seeks to provide options for policy makers in addressing resulting tradeoffs.

Key findings include: impacts of biofuel production on water, food,

energy and the environment must be considered before implementing

policies supporting biofuel production; biofuel production will

aggravate existing problems in regions where water is already scarce;

water needs for ethanol production depend on local conditions, ranging

from 90 liters of water per liter of ethanol in Brazil to up to 3500

liters in India; and certain biofuel crops such as jatropha trees and

sweet sorghum use less water and are less likely to compete with food


The brief suggests a number of policy options to reduce the

impact of biofuel production on other uses of water, such as: using

biofuel crops that require less water; growing biofuel crops under rain

fed rather than irrigated conditions; implementing policies to increase

water use efficiency; supporting synergies between biofuel production

and other objectives, such as watershed protection; encouraging new

technologies; and ensuring that biofuel crops have a positive carbon

balance and are produced in a cost-effective manner. [Policy Brief]