Even though the majority of our planet is covered with water, less than 1% is fresh water and the agricultural sector consumes a staggering 70% of our fresh water.
Approximately 1.2 billion people, almost one fifth of the world’s population, live in areas where water is scarce and another 500 million people are approaching the same situation. Within the next 50 years, the world’s population is expected to grow by another 40-50%; resulting in an increased demand for water that will have serious consequences for humans and the environment.
The intensification of agriculture has increased in recent years and is not set to slow; this has contributed to increased water usage for agriculture and has also resulted in higher waterborne pollution loads, affecting both ecosystems and human health.
The major water pollutants from agriculture are nutrients (primarily nitrogen and phosphorus from chemical an organic fertilizers) pesticides, salts, sediments and organic matter.
How to address this issue
Agriculture must adapt and become much more efficient in order to minimize water use, to prevent wasteful water practices, and to stem further pollution. This change includes making improvements to irrigation systems, cultivating crops suited to the soil type and environment, and implementing best practices to avoid water pollution. The challenge is clear, we need to produce more food with less water. To get there farms should:
- Reduce pesticide use and avoid fertilizer run-off into natural bodies of water
- Implement risk-mitigation measures when applying pesticides that pose a risk for aquatic ecosystems
- Measure and optimize water consumption for crop production and crop processing by designing an efficient irrigation system
- Treat and manage wastewaters so they do not pose risks to human health or the environment. Never discharge sewage into bodies of water.
- Reduce, reuse and recycle water
- Collect and treat grey-water, never discharge it into aquatic ecosystems
To help farms and businesses make production more efficient while also saving and conserving water, we design customized solutions; including a range of Assurance Services such as diagnostics, assessments, definition of indicators, monitoring and evaluation, as well as reporting on the status of well-managed farms in relation to water use.
We also provide Capacity Development assistance such as coaching and on-the- ground training. We conduct this across multiple farm management and water usage issues. In addition, we implement Innovation & Change projects to integrate private and public sector groups, and multi-stakeholder dialogues. Through these projects, we help deliver programs to increase water protection, to implement good water usage practices and provide education at regional and/or multinational levels.