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Living with water scarcity -- world must act now

food. "Each of us is responsible for consuming between 2,000 and 5,000 liters of water every day, depending on our diet and how the food is produced ?far more than the 2 to 5 litres we drink every day" says Molden. A heavy meat diet requires much more than a vegetarian diet.

In developed countries water scarcity poses no threat to what appears on the dinner plate. In contrast, the relation between water and food is a real struggle for over two thirds of world’s 850 million under-nourished people, where water is a key constraint to food security.

There is already physical water scarcity in India and China, two water use giants. Because of rapid economic growth in both countries, diets are changing, with more dependence on animal products. In China, per capita meat demand has quadrupled over the last 30 years, and in India milk and egg products are becoming increasingly popular ?meaning an accelerated demand for more water to grow more food. Growing cities take more water, and environmental concerns are rising.

A water-food-environment dilemma. Water use in agriculture is recognized as one of the major drivers of ecosystem degradation, causing habitat loss, drying up of rivers, and reduction in groundwater levels. Flows in the Colorado River in USA, the Yellow River in China, the Indus in India and Pakistan ?all important food producing areas ?dry up because of the water needed for irrigated agriculture. Clearly limiting agricultural water use is key for environmental sustainability. Therein lies the dilemma. More people require more water for more food; more water is essential in the fight against poverty; yet we should limit the amount of water taken from ecosystems.

How much more water? To rid the world of poverty and hunger, and to feed a growing wealthier population, the global food demand will double over the next 50 years. In the worst case scenario where practices don’t change, water use will also double
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Source:International Water Management Institute


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