The world needs to make an efficient and effective allocation of water with food production and some of the world’s largest cities facing serious risks, and as the total amount of freshwater on Earth is fixed and cannot be changed. This summarises the two reports from the Food and Agriculture Organization.
The reports presented at Stockholm World Water Week 2021 aims to give stakeholders and policy makers a critical data about trends in water use and availability. The reports – “Progress on change in water-use efficiency” and “Progress on level of water stress” – provide detailed updates on the global status and acceleration needs to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Climate change impacts are already affecting water supply for agricultural production systems, with symptoms ranging from floods and droughts to increased rainfall variability and rising temperatures, as well as competition between users where water stress and scarcity are already significant
FAO Director-General QU Dongyu states in the foreword to the report that “Water is the essence of life and at the core of the agri-food systems. The path to water efficiency passes through sustainable agri-food systems.” FAO Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo opined that water challenges in agriculture, such as water scarcity, pollution and wastage, must be addressed as a matter of urgency in order to transform and make food systems more resilient.
The ‘Progress on level of water stress’ looks into the water stress throughout global regions, emphasising the urgent need to develop resilient water management systems, especially for irrigated and rain fed agricultural production. The report points out that increasing water use efficiency practices in all sectors, particularly the agricultural sector that accounts for an estimated 70 percent of global freshwater withdrawals represents a win win strategy that promotes better water demand management practices as well as adopting to climate change impacts through strengthening system resilience.
This report noted that one-third of the world’s population (about 2.3 billion people) live in countries experiencing water stress. It said that ten percent (733 million) live in countries with high or critical water stress. Moreover, farmers may experience increasing inequalities in their access to water resources in a water stress situation, highlighting the need to promote not only sustainable but also inclusive and integrated management and governance of the different water sources
The Progress on change in water-use efficiency gives a valuable benchmark on water efficiency and tracking recent trends. The report points to trade as among the factors with potential to influence water use efficiency, and highlights virtual water exchanges as a promising possible contributor to the effort to account for water use properly. It also emphasised the need to seek balance between food security, sustainable water use, and economic growth.
- From 2015 through 2018, global water-use efficiency rose from 17.30 dollars to 18.90 dollar per cubic meter, or 9 percent, with the industrial sector leading the improvements.
- For 86 countries with regularly reported water-use data, efficiency in the agricultural sector has increased 60 percent from 2006 to 2018.
- Globally, about 18.4 percent of the total renewable freshwater resources were being withdrawn in 2018, although the figure was above 25 percent in Central and Southern Asia and Northern Africa.
- When measured by river basins rather than national boundaries, severe water stress zones can be found in many countries including Chile, China, Mexico, South Africa and the United States of America.
- Extremely low water stress values may indicate the inability of a country to properly use its resources for the benefit of the population.
- Urban, agricultural and industrial uses are interdependent and linked with population growth, climate related issues and irrigation practices.