As water scarcity reaches alarming rates globally, conservation is becoming as important as alternative energy and oil initiatives. Contrary to common perceptions, the water crisis isn’t affecting developing nations alone: Stateside, California and Texas are both experiencing severe droughts. With California supplying more than half of our nation’s fruits, vegetables, and nuts, we could be facing serious food shortages as a result.
cause and effect
The latest United Nations World Water Report found agriculture accounts for an astounding 70 percent of water consumption in the world. More shocking yet, only about 37 percent of water used for agriculture is actually consumed—the remainder is lost in evapotranspiration (the combined total of evaporation and transpiration). Unfortunately, agricultural water consumption shows no signs of slowing: rapid population increases directly result in higher demands for food and agricultural products, like cotton, which means more water usage to meet growing needs.
In recent years climate change has entered the equation, playing a paradoxical role in agricultural water consumption. Agricultural production contributes heavily to global warming through methane and nitrous oxide emissions. It is also unusually sensitive to the effects of climate change. In effect, as agriculture increases so do emissions, which results in less rainwater and therefore fewer crops, rendering the process more and more ineffective as time progresses.
While it’s true that water is a renewable resource, there are limits to its replenishing capabilities. As population and demand increase, and water supplies plateau, each person is afforded less water for living—a devastating prospect considering one billion people don’t have access to clean drinking water today.
what we can do
Industry needs to design smarter technologies: The U.N. reports that industrial use creates more pressure on water resources through wastewater and pollution than from water used in actual production. In the Eastern European industrial market, demand for water has already fallen as their production technology evolves. As an individual, you can help ease the pressure by conserving water in your daily life, supporting green companies, and avoiding agricultural products that perpetuate wasteful practices.
What measures are you taking now, if any, to conserve?
Map Credit: deCarbonnel, Eric. “Catastrophic Fall in 2009 Global Food Production.” Market Skeptics. Feb 9, 2009. http://www.marketskeptics.com/2009/02/2009-global-food-catastrophe.html