Can we produce more food with less water?
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©FAO/A.K. KimotoHow much water is needed to produce our food?

All the food from crop and livestock production, inland fisheries or aquaculture, forest products, requires water. This water comes from rain and moisture stored in soils (green water) or from withdrawals in watercourses, wetlands, lakes and aquifers (blue water).

70% of the blue water withdrawals at global level go to irrigation. Irrigated agriculture represents 20% of the total cultivated land but contributes 40% of the total food produced worldwide.

It takes about 1500 liters of water to produce 1 kg of wheat, but it takes 10 times more to produce 1kg of beef! Producing feed crops for livestock, slaughtering and the processing of meat, milk and other dairy products also require large quantities of water. This makes the water footprint of animal products particularly important. Fish production from rivers and, increasingly, from aquaculture contribute about 25% to the world’s fish production and aquaculture is the fastest growing food producing sector: the average annual per capita supply of fish from aquaculture has increased at an average rate of 6.6% per year between 1970 and 2008. Both fisheries and aquaculture require a certain quantity and quality of water in rivers, wetlands, lakes and estuaries and are therefore important water users.

Water footprint

All human activities use water: drinking, cooking, washing, but also and mostly, for producing food, paper, clothes, etc. The water footprint is a way of measuring our direct and indirect water use. The water footprint is the total volume of freshwater that is used to produce the goods and services consumed by an individual or a community or produced by a given business.

But can we produce more food with less water?

The future production of food and other agricultural products will not be possible without increased efforts aiming at better using water in the fields. For a long time, progresses in agricultural production have been assessed in terms of ‘yield’, the amount of production that could be extracted from a given area of land. Now, in many places, maximizing the yield per unit of land should give way to achieving the maximum yield per unit of water used. This requires a better control and application of irrigation water, and a sharper combination of the use of rain and irrigation water, combined with good agricultural practices to ensure the highest possible productivity.




CleanBlueMed msolutions CTL Consult CleanBlueAsia