CATCH THE BUZZ - Kim Flottum 3/20/14
This Saturday, March 22nd, the world celebrates World Water Day. Water and agriculture are inextricably interlinked and interdependent. Agriculture is a major user of both ground and surface water for irrigation—accounting for about 70 percent of water withdrawal worldwide.
Modern irrigation practices, including center pivot irrigation systems, can help improve crop productivity and yields. Unfortunately, irrigation is also the source of excessive water depletion from aquifers, erosion, and soil degradation. But using rainwater harvesting, zai pits, micro-irrigation, bottle irrigation, gravity drip buckets, rotational grazing systems, and other water-saving practices can all help create diverse landscapes, supporting wildlife and culture.
According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), 47 percent of the population could be living under severe water stress by 2050. “The world is thirsty because it is hungry,” reports the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). We all consume around 3,800 liters of water everyday and 92 percent of that is used to produce the food we eat, making sustainable practices and reducing water consumption in food, also known as “virtual water,” even more necessary.
Europe uses, on average, 44 percent of water for agricultural use. In the United States, agriculture accounts for around 80 percent of consumptive water use. And in Western U.S. States, such as California, over 90 percent of water use is for agricultural purposes.
California is also facing the worst drought since records began, 100 years ago—approximately 95 percent of the state remains in a drought, with about 23 percent experiencing “exceptional” drought. The state also happens to be America’s breadbasket, supplying nearly half the country's fruits, nuts, and vegetables, and is a major producer of almonds, artichokes, grapes, olives, and other products.