The world’s population is projected to increase from 7.6 billion in 2017 to 9.7 billion in 2050. With agriculture already consuming about 70% of the world’s freshwater withdrawals, the sector will need to use water more efficiently to meet rising demand for food.
Farmers will need to produce 70% more food by 2050 to meet the needs of the world’s population. Specifically, a billion more tons of wheat, rice, and other cereals and 200 million more tons of beef and other livestock will be required. At the same time, 47% of the world’s population will be living in areas under severe water stress in 2050, up from 44% in 2005.
The Sunshine State’s more crop per drop program
In Australia, the State of Queensland has the largest area of agricultural land of any Australian state and the highest proportion of land area in the country dedicated to agriculture. Over 30,000 businesses carry out agricultural activity in the state with the sector contributing more than $10 billion to the state’s economy each year. To meet rising demand for food, the state has set itself the target of doubling agricultural production by 2040 by:
- Securing and increasing resource availability
- Driving productivity growth across the supply chain
- Securing and increasing market access
- Minimizing the costs of production
Rural Water Use Efficiency for Irrigation Future (RWUE-IF) program
To enhance water efficiency in agricultural production, Queensland has developed the Rural Water Use Efficiency for Irrigation Future (RWUE-IF) program which is a partnership arrangement between rural irrigation industries and government. The aim of the program is to improve the use and management of on-farm irrigation water to achieve improved productivity and sustainability of rural industries. Assistance to irrigators is provided through technical advice, irrigation system evaluations, limited financial assistance, field days, workshops, and exposure to web-based technologies. To date, more than $6 million has been distributed over the past 3 years for 47 projects to improve on-farm irrigation water. The results have been significant with individual projects making energy savings of up to 70% and water gains of up to 30%. Irrigators have also benefited from a software application for mobile devices that allow irrigators to access real-time climate and irrigation scheduling data.
To reduce water-food nexus pressures, governments can use a variety of fiscal and non-fiscal tools to decouple food production from water usage.
*Robert C. Brears is the author of Urban Water Security (Wiley), The Green Economy and the Water-Energy-Food Nexus (Palgrave Macmillan), and of the forthcoming title Blue and Green Cities (Palgrave Macmillan). He is Founder of Mitidaption, which consults on climate change risks to business, governance, and society.