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Water for Food


The link between water and food is a simple one. Crops and livestock need water to grow. Agriculture accounts for 70% of all water withdrawn by the agricultural, municipal and industrial (including energy) sectors. Water is the key to food security. 


Globally, there is enough water available for our future needs, but this world picture hides large areas of absolute water scarcity which affects billions of people, many of whom are poor and disadvantaged. Major changes in policy and management, across the entire agricultural production chain, are needed to ensure best use of available water resources in meeting growing demands for food and other agricultural products.


The world population is predicted to grow from 6.9 billion in 2010 to 8.3 billion in 2030 and 9.1 billion in 2050. By 2030, food demand is predicted to increase by 60% by 2050 according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.

At the same time, economic growth and individual wealth are shifting diets from predominantly starch-based to meat and dairy, which require more water. Producing 1 kg rice, for example, requires about 3,500 L water, 1 kg beef some 15,000 L, and a cup of coffee about 140 L. This dietary shift is the greatest to impact on water consumption over the past 30 years, and is likely to continue well into the middle of the twenty-first century.

Furthermore food security is threatened by the potential for waste as agricultural products move along extensive value chains and pass through many hands – farmers, transporters, store keepers, food processors, shopkeepers and consumers – as it travels from field to fork. Food can be wasted at every step along the value chain, which means that the water used to produce it is also wasted.


The world is clearly entering a new era of water management characterized by increasing recognition of the links between water and other resources and the socio-economics of poor post-harvest management and food waste along the value chain, towards “water-smart” food production.


Source: World Water Development Report 2012


Last update:07 Oct 2014