Salt of the Earth: Quantifying the Impact of Water Salinity on Global Agricultural Productivity

25 Pages Posted: 11 Feb 2020 Last revised: 12 Feb 2020

See all articles by Jason Daniel Russ

Jason Daniel Russ

World Bank

Esha Dilip Zaveri

World Bank

Richard Damania

World Bank; University of Adelaide - School of Economics

Sebastien Gael Desbureaux

World Bank

Jorge Jose Escurra

World Bank

Aude-Sophie Rodella

World Bank

Date Written: February 10, 2020

Abstract

Salinity in surface waters is on the rise throughout much of the world. Many factors contribute to this change, including increased water extraction, poor irrigation management, and sea-level rise. To date no study has attempted to quantify the impacts on global food production. This paper develops a plausibly causal model to test the sensitivity of global and regional agricultural productivity to changes in water salinity. To do so, it utilizes several local and global data sets on water quality and agricultural productivity and a model that isolates the impact of exogenous changes in water salinity on yields. The analysis trains a machine-learning model to predict salinity globally, to simulate average global food losses over 2000-13. These losses are found to be high, in the range of the equivalent of 124 trillion kilocalories, or enough to feed more than 170 million people every day, each year. Global maps building on these results show that pockets of high losses occur on all continents, but the losses can be expected to be particularly problematic in regions already experiencing malnutrition challenges.

Suggested Citation

Russ, Jason Daniel and Zaveri, Esha Dilip and Damania, Richard and Desbureaux, Sebastien Gael and Escurra, Jorge Jose and Rodella, Aude-Sophie, Salt of the Earth: Quantifying the Impact of Water Salinity on Global Agricultural Productivity (February 10, 2020). World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 9144, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3535979

Jason Daniel Russ (Contact Author)

World Bank ( email )

1818 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20433
United States

Esha Dilip Zaveri

World Bank ( email )

1818 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20433
United States

Richard Damania

World Bank ( email )

1818 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20433
United States

University of Adelaide - School of Economics ( email )

Adelaide SA, 5005
Australia
+61 8 8303 4933 (Phone)
+61 8 8223 1460 (Fax)

Sebastien Gael Desbureaux

World Bank ( email )

1818 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20433
United States

Jorge Jose Escurra

World Bank ( email )

1818 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20433
United States

Aude-Sophie Rodella

World Bank ( email )

1818 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20433
United States

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