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.
Hammerby Sjöstad, in central Stockholm, is integrated urban water management in action. The district, which was intended to be an Olympic Village, once was an old industrial area, but it has been transformed into a sustainable city.
Starting about a decade ago, the planners took on the ambitious goal of reducing the environmental footprint of the neighborhood by 50% compared to other recent developments in Stockholm. They brought in new ideas and put them into practice at surprisingly low costs.
While I was in Stockholm for World Water Week this past week, I spoke to Erik Freudenthal from GlashusEtt in Hammerby Sjöstad about the project.
In a session on water’s role in food security at the 6th World Water Forum in Marseille, the director of the Food and Agriculture Organization, Mr. Alexander Mueller, has just outlined water's role in meeting the world's food challenges in the most graphic way. By 2050, when the global population is expected to reach nine billion, the world will need to produce 60-70% more food to meet the needs of a larger number of people whose consumption patterns are influenced by higher incomes and increased urbanization. At current rates of water usage in agriculture, that would require an additional 5,500km2 of water. That would mean having to find the amount of water that is stored in Egypt’s Aswan Dam 55 times every year.