New research shows that better water productivity in food production can produce
enough food, improve livelihoods and support natural ecosystems.
Kyoto 17 March 2003 - “If current trends continue, the water crisis – which is
already beginning to rear its head in many countries through depleted groundwater
aquifers, dried-up rivers and wetlands, and frequent water shortages – will indeed
become a global problem,” – says David Molden, Leader of the Comprehensive
Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture.
Growing more food with less water is the key to solving the world’s water crisis, a
new assessment on water in agriculture has concluded. Only by achieving ‘more
crop per drop’ can we hope to increase food security for the world’s poor. The
Comprehensive Assessment is an international research program which brings
together more than 100 scientists - led by the International Water Management
Institute (IWMI) and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural
Agriculture currently consumes 70 percent or more of the world’s developed freshwater supplies.
When you also consider that it takes 2000 to 5000 liters of water to produce enough food to feed
one person each day, it is easy to comprehend how important increasing the productivity of water
in agriculture is to our future.
Research by the Comprehensive Assessment highlights new perspectives, that encourage water
saving approaches in food production, allowing water to be returned to other users – including
nature, cities and industry. Research released today by the Assessment stresses that a 40 percent
improvement in the productivity of water in agriculture over the next 25 years can have a
significant positive in providing water to all users. This improvement will reduce the amount of
additional water withdrawals needed from our rivers to feed the world’s growing population to
zero, raising hopes that the world’s growing water crisis can be contained.
“Research on water resources done over the past decade shows that by improving the productivity
of water on irrigated and rainfed lands, we can have enough water for cities, industry and nature.
But, this requires a commitment to institutional and management reforms, substantial investment
in crop research, technology and infrastructure,” David Molden.
The consequences of complacency will be severe – a recent study by the International Food
Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI)
projects that if present trends continue, by 2025 competition from growing cities and industry
worldwide will limit the amount of water available for irrigation, causing global losses of 350
million metric tons of irrigated food production.
The Comprehensive Assessment recommends that regions and river basins put in place integrated
water management strategies, that take into account the needs of all water user sectors.
Recommendations for increasing water productivity
• Before investing in expanding irrigated areas, look at options for improving productivity
• Take a basin perspective on water savings and understand how changes in water
management or allocation in one area affects users in another
• Integrate the management of ‘blue’ water – from rivers and reservoirs – with green water
– rainfall stored in the soil profile or in aquifers
• Invest in efforts to provide reliable irrigation to farmers in existing schemes
• Create policies and incentives to support the uptake of technologies and practices that
will improve water productivity and reduce degradation of agro-ecosystems
• Ensure the poor benefit from investments in improving water productivity by ensuring
access to water for income generation, developing and promoting affordable water
productivity enhancing technologies, and giving the poor a voice in water decisions.
These recommendations have been incorporated into a new publication outlining work conducted
by the Comprehensive Assessment. Water Productivity in Agriculture – a compilation of essays
covering various water productivity issues - focuses on both irrigated and rain-fed agriculture,
and analyzes and identifies actions that need to be taken before there is an increase in the
productivity of water. The title represents the first in a new series of volumes based on the
findings of the Comprehensive Assessment of Water management in Agriculture program.
The Comprehensive of Water Management in Agriculture is the first step in identifying the most
effective choices for the future – to ensure food and environmental security and alleviate poverty.
The assessment brings together expertise in agriculture and water from over 50 international and
national institutions worldwide. It takes stock of the costs and benefits of the past century of
water development for agriculture, the water management challenges communities are facing
today, and solutions people have developed. The results of this research will enable farming
communities, governments and donors to make better quality investment decisions to meet food
and environmental security targets in the near future and over the next 25 years.
For interviews or further information please contact Sanjini de Silva Dias, Communications
Coordinator, International Water Management Institute (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Jack Durrell