Knowledge for better food systems

Showing results for: Water

While 72 percent of the Earth is covered in water, only 3 percent consists of precious freshwater, and of that, over two-thirds is stored in ice caps and glaciers. Currently, about 1.1 billion people chronically lack access to drinking or irrigation water, and a total of 2.7 billion experience water scarcity for at least one month of the year; this is predicted to increase in the future due to unsustainable extraction of water from aquifers and rivers, and to climate change and the growing importance of other competing uses such as industrial developments and urbanisation. Since industrial times, more than half the world’s wetlands have disappeared. Agricultural production is the major user of water, utilising some 70% of all irrigation water and its use is often highly inefficient. The agri-food sector is also a major source of water pollution, via its use of pesticides and synthetic and organic fertilisers, contributing to eutrophication.

Photo: USDA NRCS, Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0
21 January 2018

This article examines global overuse of freshwater resources and how more sustainable irrigation practices could impact other environmental and developmental targets in the SDGs. It finds that the main likely effects are 1) increased food prices due to lower productivity and/or production costs as water prices increase, and 2) cropland expansion and associated extra GHG emissions of 0.87 gigatonnes of carbon.

12 December 2017

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has released a worldwide map that details croplands in high resolution in an ongoing effort to monitor croplands and water use.

28 November 2017

This new book, edited by Laura M. Pereira, Caitlin A. McElroy, Alexandra Littaye and Alexandra M. Girard, presents a diversity of collaborations between various governance actors in the management of the Food-Energy-Water (FEW) nexus and analyses the ability of emergent governance structures to cope with the complexity of future challenges across FEW systems worldwide.

29 August 2017

This book contains six chapters on food security and sustainability in the Middle East. The book can be purchased in its entirety or by chapter online.

Photo: Chris Happel, irrigation at dawn, Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0 generic.
19 April 2017

This research identifies the major crops and countries contributing to groundwater depletion. The authors found that 11 percent of unsustainable groundwater used for irrigation is embedded in international crop trade. They highlight the main exporters and importers of these crops, and the associated risks for local and global food and water security.

15 December 2016

An engineering project aims to produce food, energy and fresh water from solar power and seawater by using a new combination of already established technologies. The Sahara Forest Project is run in desert areas of Qatar, Tunisia and Jordan.

Photo credit: Neil Palmer, CIAT, Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0
29 November 2016

This study models the water demand of land acquisitions in Africa as a function of crop choice, local climate, and irrigation scenarios. Its authors distinguish between green and blue water, equating to water from rainfall and that provided to crops by irrigation respectively. 

Credit: Dan zen, Golden soy, Flickr, Creative Commons Licence 2.0
11 October 2016

This paper by researchers in the US and Australia reports the findings of a long-term field-trial-based investigation into the effect of elevated carbon dioxide concentrations (CO2) on soy yield and drought tolerance. Their findings challenge the widely-held belief that crop yield will be increased by elevated CO2 (the so-called CO2 fertilisation effect) both because of increased photosynthetic rate, and because of lower susceptibility to drought: it has long been assumed that in higher CO2 conditions, stomatal conductance will be lower, leading to slower water loss from the leaves, slower water uptake from the roots, and consequently more moisture remaining in the soil for longer, thereby sustaining crops in limited rainfall.

(Photo: Graeme Law, creative commons licence, Flickr)
28 June 2016

This report discusses how less protein in food and fewer phosphorus compounds added to food products could reduce the eutrophication of the sea. Below is a summary of the research by two of the report’s authors, Anders Grimvall and Eva-Lotta Sundblad from the Swedish Institute for the Marine Environment.

Photo credit: U.S Department of Agriculture (Flickr, creative commons)
10 March 2016

In this paper by researchers from Germany, Kenya, Australia and Sweden, a modeling approach is taken to ascertain the efficacy of applying improved water management techniques on a large scale to increase yields to help meet global demand for food.

16 February 2016

The book provides an analysis of impacts of climate change on water for agriculture, and the adaptation strategies in water management to deal with these impacts.

3 February 2016

The 2016 Global Risks Report (GRR) analyses the responses of 750 experts and decision-makers to the Global Risks Perception Survey, in which they were asked to give an estimate of the likelihood and impact of 29 different risks, categorised into 5 categories: societal (s), technological (t), economic (ec), environmental (en) and geopolitical (g).

18 January 2016

In this article, researchers from Cranfield University, UK, examine the environmental burden associated with the production, manufacturing and distribution of potatoes, pasta and rice. The aim of the research is to highlight the difference that can be made to an individual’s environmental footprint (here focusing on water use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions) by making dietary changes within food groups, rather than between them.

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