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The Critical Role of Water in Feeding 10bn

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According to an article, Liquidity Crisis, on water scarcity in The Economist (Nov 5th) the water used by farmers to ‘grow huge amounts of food in places that would otherwise be too dry to do so,’ is a key contributor to a food production system that is ‘unsustainable.’

The article identifies that agriculture currently ‘accounts for more than 70% of global freshwater withdrawals,’ with water use by farmers increasing ‘sharply,’ in recent decades. This usage demand doesn’t look to alleviate in the near future as agriculture will need to rise by a further 60% to ‘fill the … bellies,’ of a population forecast to rise to 10bn by 2050.

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A further challenge to feeding this population will be climate change as it is estimated that ‘even if temperature increases can be limited to 2°C, crop yields could slump by a fifth in Africa.’

Complex factors such as investment in water infrastructure are recognized as required in order to alleviate the situation. Citing a World Economic Forum estimated $20tn shortfall in water infrastructure funding the article notes that this investment may not be forthcoming without increased monetization of water and the introduction of tradeable water rights. Expectations in this regard are recognized as challenged with politicians ‘scared to charge much for something essential that falls from the sky.’


On a positive note, the article recognizes a number of ways in which farmers and food producers are ‘becoming more shrewd in the use of water,’ where ‘precision planting, hybrid seeds that require less watering and other technologies are all being used to conserve precious supplies.’ Also noted is the ‘huge potential,’ of recycling wastewater highlighting the example of Israel where fruit trees are showered with it and where a staggering 86% of sewage is recycled. Water usage is recognized as a key area of focus within the Bord Bia Origin Green Sustainability Charter which targets producers and processors to reduce consumption, prevent pollution and minimize consumption.

Further detail on how the independently verified Origin Green Programme enables Ireland’s farmers and producers to set and achieve measurable sustainability targets – reducing environmental impact, serving local communities more effectively and protecting the extraordinarily rich natural resources that our country enjoy can be found at OriginGreen.ie.

For more information please contact david.kennedy@bordbia.ie

Source: Bord Bia - The Critical Role of Water in Feeding 10bn


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