"For several decades, the increase in food production has out-paced population growth. Now much of the world is simply running out water for more production," says the report, Water: More Nutrition per Drop, issued during the World Water Week conference in Stockholm. "The additional water requirements to alleviate hunger and under-nourishment by 2025, would be equivalent to all water withdrawn to support all aspects of society use today," warns the report.
|Massive amounts of water are used
to irrigate cropland in California
© Inga Spence/Holt Studios International
"By 2020 world cereal demand will increase by 40 per cent, but the world has a finite supply of water," says Mr Frank Rijsberman, Director General the International Water Management Institute (IWMI). "Today’s production patterns are unsustainable, involve large scale groundwater over-exploitation and widespread river depletion, and pose a major threat to biodiversity and aquatic ecosystems. There are increasing levels of environmental degradation and loss of production potential due to water pollution from agricultural chemicals, water logging and salinisation."
Less meat, more water
Difficult choices will have to made in the next few years as pressure from the world's growing population for more food leads to greater water consumption and increased environmental degradation, say the water experts.
Influencing peoples' eating habits away from meat and diary products could be one possible solution to conserving water and the environment.
|Water and Food|
Increasing the trade of 'virtual water' - or trade in food from water abundant
countries to water scarce ones could be another way forward. "The transport of virtual water is huge. Australians were astonished to find that although their country is short of water, they're net exporters of water in form of meat," explains Berntell.
As cities are predicted to use 150 per cent more water by 2025, an increase in the use of wastewater for irrigation is also an option. Reducing agricultural subsidies in the west could also be a way to give cash-strapped farmers in developing countries greater opportunity to manage water in a more efficient and economical way.
Moreover, say the experts, the best solution to free up water for the environment is to improve water productivity. This means increasing crop yields by extracting more value from each drop used. This can be achieved through introducing improved crop varieties, better farming practices and small scale, low cost technologies that have the potential to safeguard the environment while also doubling yields of staple crops in developing countries.
The World Water Week conference is held annually in Stockholm, Sweden, and is organised by the Stockholm International Water Institute. This year it runs from August 15-21.
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