A new report warns that a quarter of the world's food crops are being grown in areas that are already experiencing high levels of water stress. Increases in drought conditions and population size could make the situation worse.
A report released yesterday (Oct. 31) by the nonprofit World Resources Institute (WRI) paints a dire future for the world’s crops: A quarter of them are being grown in regions where the renewable water supply is being depleted by demand from other sources, notably residents in fast-growing cities. Among these are food crops, such as wheat, maize and rice, as well as non-food crops, such as cotton. Not surprisingly, irrigated land and the crops it produces are at special risk: Half of that land is located in areas that are predicted to get drier as a result of drought induced by climate change.
What’s the Big Idea?
Currently, a full 70 percent of the world’s water is used in agriculture, leaving only 30 percent for people and animals as well as for manufacturing and energy production. If, as expected, the world population jumps to nearly 10 billion by 2050, governments may find themselves having to make some hard choices about how much water goes where. One suggestion offered by the WRI: Reduce reliance on monoculture crops that require heavy irrigation.