Villagers using a hand-operated water pump in a typical low-lying suburban area on the edge of Bacolod. -

Water-efficient farming technologies needed

Photo credit: SciDevNet

Villagers using a hand-operated water pump in a typical low-lying suburban area on the edge of Bacolod. 

Don’t put irrigation above drinking water

by Joe Turner

“Agriculture uses 70 per cent of the world’s freshwater extraction, which means improvements in efficiency could make a big difference.” Toby Bruce, Rothamsted Research

Speed read

  • Population growth and climate change will put pressure on water like never before
  • Prioritising irrigation for food security risks leaving urban populations dry
  • Water-efficient farming technologies could mean there is enough to go round

Water policies and technologies aiming to help meet sustainable development goals (SDGs) must rebalance the attention given toagriculture over drinking water, a report issued last week (15 May) has found.

The Water for Food Security and Nutrition report was commissioned by the Committee for World Food Security, a UN body based in Rome. It makes eight recommendations, saying that better access to technologies could make water use in farming more efficient, as well as improving access to drinking water for disadvantaged people.

The report warns that population growth and climate change will put more strain on freshwater supplies, particularly in low-rainfall areas like Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. Much of the available groundwater in these regions has already been extracted, with 80–90 per cent being used for irrigation in agriculture, leaving lakes and groundwater at historically low levels.

Using techniques such as rain-fed agriculture, and introducing better technologies to harvest and store water, and reduce losses through evaporation, could go some way towards ensuring enough drinking water remains, the report says.

Read the full article: SciDevNet

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.