Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Worldwide Assessment Of Water Management In Agriculture

Aug 21: One in three people is enduring one form or another of water scarcity, according to new findings released by the Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture at World Water Week in Stockholm. According to a release, "These alarming findings totally overrun predictions that this situation would come to pass in 2025." Frank Rijsberman, Director General of the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) said, "Worrisome predictions in 2000 had forecast that one third of the world population would be affected by water scarcity by 2025. Our findings from the just-concluded research show the situation to be even worse. Already in 2005, more than a third of the world population is affected by water scarcity. We will have to change business as usual in order to deal with growing scarcity water crisis we see in some countries like India, China, and the Colorado River basin of USA and Mexico."

The Comprehensive Assessment, carried out by 700 experts from around the world over the last five years, indicates that one third of the world’s population is currently living in places where water is either over-used - leading to falling groundwater levels and drying rivers - or can not be accessed due to the absence of the appropriate infrastructure. The Assessment, the first of its kind critically examining policies and practices of water use and development in the agricultural sector over the last 50 years, was co-sponsored by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), FAO, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, and the Convention on Biological Diversity in a bid to find solutions to the challenge of balancing the water-food-environment needs. It was spearheaded by IWMI, one of 15 agricultural research centers supported by the CGIAR that are striving to increase food production, increase rural incomes, and safeguard the environment.

Despite the impending threat, the Assessment identifies numerous bright spots -- innovative approaches that hold potential for the future. These include very low cost technologies that facilitate access to, and use of water by, the rural poor. With health issues addressed, for example, people can effectively use urban wastewaters as a productive resource. Irrigation could also be reformed and transformed to reduce water wastage and increase productivity. The report finds that agriculture uses up to 70 times more water to produce food than is used in drinking and other domestic purposes, including cooking, washing and bathing. As a rule of thumb, each calorie consumed as food requires about one liter of water to produce.

David Molden who led the Comprehensive Assessment said, “The Assessment shows that while a third of the world population faces water scarcity, it is not because there is not enough water to go round, but because of choices people make. It is possible to reduce water scarcity, feed people and address poverty, but the key trade-off is with the environment. People and their governments will face some tough decisions on how to allocate and manage water. Not all situations are going to be a win-win for the parties involved, and in most cases there are winners and losers. If you don't consciously debate and make tough choices, more people, especially the poor, and the environment will continue to pay the price.”

The 2006 World Water Week in Stockholm is taking place August 20-26 at the Stockholm City Conference Centre in the Swedish capital. The World Water Week is hosted and organized by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI). Over 100 different organizations and programs are on board as convenors or co-convenors of different activities and more than 1500 participants are expected from 100 countries.

Access a release (
click here); and another (click here). Access the Assessment website for links to the research reports, discussion papers & briefs, conference papers and additional information (click here). Access the CGIAR website for more information (click here). Access the World Water Week website for complete details on the conference (click here). [*Water]