Abstract：Improper water and land policies to encourage water conservation may lead to increased agricultural water use, which is called the irrigation efficiency paradox. This study assesses the impact of water and land policies on water-conservation in agriculture development. This study uses a coupled socio-hydrological model which includes water and land policies, irrigated land area, irrigation water use and an environmental indicator. The interactions between the human responses to the policies and the environmental changes are reflected in the model. The model is used to analyze the agriculture water-conservation development during 1998-2010 in Bayinguoleng Mongol Autonomous Prefecture, Xinjiang as an example with four policy scenarios including weak irrigation land control, low irrigation land control, medium irrigation land control and strong irrigation land control to analyze how agriculture water-conservation develops with different policy scenarios. With the weak irrigation land control scenario which represents the actual situation, the model effectively represents the process mechanism for the irrigation efficiency paradox. The analyses further shows that the low and medium irrigation land control scenarios stabilize the total irrigation water use after 2005 while the irrigation area quickly increases. The strong irrigation control severely limits the ability and the initiative of the water users. The total irrigation water use increased during 1998-2010 with small increases in the amount of irrigated land and the irrigation areas with water-conservation. These slowed the agricultural economic development. The results show that this framework of the water-use policies based on the coupled socio- hydrological model can be used to capture the mechanism that leads to the irrigation efficiency paradox as an effective evaluation method with theoretical support for making proper water and land policies for agriculture water-conservation in semi-arid areas.
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