Grow More From Less: Water Fact Sheet

We need to double global food production by 2050 to feed a growing population – where will we get the water?

  • Experts predict that the world’s population will pass nine billion – 9,000,000,000 – by 2050.
  • As global living standards rise, populations demand more calorie-rich diets. They consume more beef and other animal protein than previously.
  • Calorie-rich diets are more water-intensive. It takes about 40 liters of water to produce a loaf of bread. It takes 2,400 liters to produce a hamburger.

Water is a finite resource.

  • 97.5% of the earth’s water is ocean salt water. Much of the rest is too salty or contaminated to drink or use for agriculture.
  • 60% of all fresh water is located in nine countries, and concentrated in Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Congo, Indonesia, and Russia.
  • The world’s aquifers – the underground water tables absorbed from rainwater – are falling rapidly. The Oglalla Aquifer, which feeds about 30% of the United States’s irrigationwaters the breadbasket of the American Midwest, has fallen 100ft. in some areas. Aquifers in Mexico, India, and China are also being depleted faster than they can be replenished.
  • By 2030, water needs will exceed current available supplies by 40%. Demand for water in India will be more than twice its current supply. China’s demand will exceed supply by more than 25%.

There are many competing demands on the world’s water.

  • Agriculture accounts for about 70% of the world’s fresh water usage. The percentages vary from region to region. Agriculture uses about 3% of fresh water in rainy England, but 70% in China and nearly 90% in India.
  • Industrial demand for water holds about 16% of current freshwater demand, but that number is expected to increase to 22%. Almost all of that increase will go to energy generation, both traditional and alternative.
  • Domestic use is expected to hold steady between 12 and 14%, but industrial and wastewater pollution is making clean water harder to come by.  21% of the surface water in China, for example, is unfit even for agriculture due to pollution.

Technology investment will alleviate the water/food problem.

  • Improved technologies have improved crop yields in the past. In 1998, the world’s farmers plowed 3.7 billion acres to feed 6 billion people. If average yields of 1961 had prevailed, it would have required more than twice as much -- 7.9 billion acres.
  • Technology has already helped improve the situation. To take just one example: iIn the United States, soybean yields have increased 29 percent, and water use has improved 20% between 1987 and 2007. 
  • The gains are even greater in the developing world. Brazil has improved its soybean productivity by 50% over the last decade by applying modern crop protection and biotechnology. Experts estimate that Asia could boost its agricultural output 20% simply by upgrading to modern methods and technology.
  • Both irrigation and the crops themselves can be made more water efficient. Two examples among many: A new corn-hybrid has demonstrated the potential to preserve up to 15% more yield under drought stress; and b. By using the new PaniPipe irrigation technology, farmers can determine when it is necessary to irrigate, reducing overall consumption.

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