The Water Blog
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Agriculture and Rural Development

Protecting our water sources brings a wealth of benefits

Andrea Erickson's picture

The journey of our water from source to tap is long, and not one we think much about. For most of us, our water starts high in the mountains, hundreds of miles away. From there, water flows across natural and working lands until a portion is channeled to water pipes that move water to our faucets, to farms, and to various types of businesses. Most often we think of those pipes as being our main water infrastructure, but upstream lands play a key role in capturing, storing and moving our water. By conserving these lands, we can better protect our water and generate additional benefits for people and nature.  
 
Today, approximately 40 percent of the land in urban source watersheds of the world’s largest cities show high to moderate levels of degradation. This degradation impacts the present and future quality and reliability of water flows. However, by investing in nature, we can reduce these impacts.

Agriculture holds the key to tackling water scarcity

Rimma Dankova's picture

Agriculture is both a victim and a cause of water scarcity. Water of appropriate quality and quantity is essential for the production of crops, livestock, and fisheries, as well as for the processing and preparation of these foods and products. Water is the lifeblood of ecosystems, including forests, lakes, and wetlands, on which the food and nutritional security of present and future generations depends. At the same time, agriculture is the largest water user globally, and a major source of water pollution. Unsustainable agricultural water use practices threatens the sustainability of livelihoods dependent on water and agriculture.

Additionally, climate change will have significant impacts on agriculture by increasing water demand, limiting crop productivity, and reducing water availability in areas where irrigation is most needed or has a comparative advantage. A growing number of regions will face increasing water scarcity. Climate change will bring greater variation in weather events, more frequent weather extremes, and new challenges requiring the sector to take mitigation and adaptation actions.

Looking ahead towards a water-secure world for all

Guangzhe CHEN's picture

To many people, it is a surprise to learn that in an age of such advanced technology, at least 663 million people still lack access to basic needs, like safe drinking water, or that 2.5 billion people lack access to sanitation, such as a toilet or latrine. And while much progress has been made, receiving safe drinking water 24 hours a day, seven days a week simply by turning a tap is still a dream for many in the developing world.
 
Even fewer realize this is not just a problem for families, but also for those on which families rely and that also need water: the farmers who grow the families’ food, the environment that protects and sustains their homes and communities, the businesses that employ them, the cities that house them, the schools that educate their children, the clinics and hospitals that treat them, and even the power plants that generate their electricity.
 
Why does this challenge persist? How can this challenge be met? And an increasingly urgent question: is there enough water to go around?

New directions in the economics of agricultural water conservation

Susanne M. Scheierling's picture

A challenging area in agricultural water management is the assessment of policy and investment options in irrigated agriculture for conserving water and adapting to increasing water scarcity, in particular when the linkages to groundwater resources and their management are to be considered and incorporated. 

However, this is an increasingly important area of research for a number of reasons.  First, irrigated agriculture accounts for about 70% of global freshwater withdrawals, and is a major contributing factor to the water scarcity situation in many countries.  Second, with almost a quarter of freshwater withdrawals for irrigated agriculture being made up of groundwater supplies—corresponding to 70% of total groundwater withdrawals—, agricultural water use is also a major contributing factor to aquifer overexploitation.  And, third, surface water and groundwater are closely linked in most parts of the world, with groundwater discharge contributing to the base flow of streams and surface water contributing to groundwater recharge, and these interactions are intensified by human action, in particular water withdrawals for irrigated agriculture.  Even in cases where irrigated agriculture depends mostly on surface water, groundwater impacts therefore need to be accounted for when assessing water conservation efforts (and vice versa).

Promoting partnership for a water-secure world

Jennifer J. Sara's picture

Also available in 中文

The global water community is gathering in Stockholm for World Water Week 2016. This year’s theme, “Water for Sustainable Growth,” comes at a critical time, as we are mobilizing to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in which water plays an essential part
 
Water touches nearly every aspect of development.  It drives economic growth, supports healthy ecosystems, and is fundamental for life.  However, water can threaten health and prosperity as well as promote it.  Water-related hazards, including floods, storms, and droughts, are already responsible for 9 out of 10 natural disasters, and climate change is expected to increase these risks.  As water resources become increasingly strained, the risk of conflict and instability may also grow.
 
Over the next two decades and beyond, ‘thirsty agriculture’ and ‘thirsty energy’ competing with the needs of ‘thirsty cities’ will place new and increasing demands on the water sector. Over 4 billion people currently live in areas where water consumption is greater than renewable resources for part of the year – a number that will continue to increase.

Where water and climate change meet

Water Communications's picture

This week, the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, or COP21, will gather countries that want to take action for the climate. A central topic of these discussions will focus on the intersection of water and climate change.

Combating climate change is everyone’s business. Reducing emissions and investing in renewable energy, improving city planning and building design standards, developing more efficient transportation, and reducing deforestation (among others) all play key roles in mitigating the effects of climate change. At the same time, countries, and industries, will also need to adapt to changes in the climate as they unfold. Since climate change will significantly increase the variability of rainfall, different parts of the world will become more vulnerable to floods or droughts. 

“Water scarcity and variability pose significant risks to all economic activities, including food and energy production, manufacturing and infrastructure development,“ said Laura Tuck, World Bank Group Vice President for Sustainable Development during a recent press conference at COP21. “Poor water management can exacerbate the effects of climate change on economic growth, but if water is managed well it can go a long way to neutralizing the negative impacts.”

Working on water across borders: Spillover benefits for the SDGs

Jonathan Kamkwalala's picture
At the heels of the Sustainable Development Summit at the United Nations in New York this past weekend, an operations team from the World Bank’s Water Global Practice (GP) is meeting with international development partners and African implementing partner organizations in Zambia this week as part of the fourth annual advisory committee meeting of the Cooperation in International Waters in Africa (CIWA) program, with deep commitment and support from the Governments of the United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and the Netherlands. The timing is coincidental, but symbolically significant: water management will be key to achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which set the wider global development agenda for the next 15 years. In much of the world, managing water resources means working across borders in transboundary river basins, adding complexity to realizing SDG #6, to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.”

A tipping point for water

Junaid Kamal Ahmad's picture

Also available in: Español | Français | العربية

This blog originally appeared on The Huffington Post as part of a series, "What's Working: Sustainable Development Goals." 

As a sector in world affairs, water is reaching a tipping point. Over the next two decades, the global push for food and energy security and for sustaining urbanization will place unprecedented demands on water.

Ours is a "thirsty" world, in which agriculture and energy compete with the needs of cities. At the same time, climate change may worsen the situation by increasing water stress and extreme-weather events. Hence, the water and climate nexus can no longer be a side event at global-climate talks. All of this is happening while the important push for universal access to water and sanitation services -- despite the impressive gains over the past several decades -- remains an unfinished agenda.

The case for solar water pumps

Richard Colback's picture


The cost of solar technology has come down, way down, making it is a viable way to expand access to energy for hundreds of millions of people living in energy poverty. For farmers in developing countries, the growing availability of solar water pumps offers a viable alternative to system dependent on fossil fuel or grid electricity. While relatively limited, experience in several countries shows how solar irrigation pumps can make farmers more resilient against the erratic shifts in rainfall patterns caused by climate change or the unreliable supply and high costs of fossil fuels needed to operate water pumps. Experience also suggests a number of creative ways that potential water resource trade-offs can be addressed.

Eau : le point de rupture

Junaid Kamal Ahmad's picture
Also available in: English | Español

La Banque mondiale à la Semaine mondiale de l’eau 2015

Le thème ne pouvait être mieux choisi pour l’édition 2015 de la Semaine mondiale de l’eau de Stockholm : « De l’eau pour le développement ». L’eau est en effet un secteur crucial et qui atteint un point critique dans les affaires internationales. Au cours des 20 prochaines années et au-delà, la course à la sécurité alimentaire et énergétique et à une urbanisation durable exercera des pressions nouvelles et croissantes sur les ressources hydriques. 

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