Worldwide, the agricultural sector is the largest consumer of freshwater, accounting for some 70% of all water withdrawals.
And this use is only forecast to increase. Eradicating malnutrition by 2025, with current productivity, requires additional diversions “close to all the water withdrawals at present”.1
, and sugar
are amongst the thirstiest crops in the world, requiring between 2,000–10,000 litres of water per kg grown.
... and inefficient irrigation
The importance of irrigation in food supply is undeniable: 40% of the world's food is produced from the 17% of land that is irrigated.
But poorly designed irrigation systems and inappropriate field application methods waste a lot of water. Water often evaporates or trickles away before it even reaches the plants!
More sustainable irrigation practices can produce the same amount of food or fibre using less water.
Practices that can reduce water use include:
- Improving management of surface irrigation systems.
- Implementing better field application practices, such as 'bed and furrow' irrigation or drip irrigation.
- Encouraging a cropping pattern adjusted to the local climatic conditions, for instance growing sorghum instead of rice or wheat in drought prone areas.
- Enhancing local water storage in ponds or lakes through small structures, connecting channels, and measures to encourage groundwater recharge, such as the traditional 'tank' system in Southern India.
- Adopting water harvesting techniques.