The number rises to nearly 90% in countries where farming is most intensive contributing to water pollution from excess nutrients, pesticides and other pollutants. But the competition for water is increasing and the costs of water pollution can be high.
The next decades
The world’s farmers will need to produce more food than they managed to produce in the previous 10,000 years. The challenge of feeding a growing global population comes alongside increasing demands for water and energy, and at a time when climate change is poised to further alter de availability of water resources.
Water demand grows with world’s population
According to a United Nations report published in 2019, the global population is expected to increase to about 9.7 billion by the year of 2050, from roughly 7.7 billion currently. Unless substantial efforts are made to reduce food waste and increase the water-use productivity of agriculture, water demand generated by the agricultural sector is only projected to further increase.
Changes in diet
Meat-based diets are more water-intensive than the vegetarian variety. Producing 1kg of bovine meat takes about 65 times more litres of water than producing 1kg of lettuce (from water footprint network). Learn more about this here.
UNESCO has predicted that global food demand will increase by 70% by 2050. Already, aquifers (layers of permeable rock that serve as reservoirs for ground water) in many regions with high-potential farmland are being depleted, and nutrients from farm runoff are polluting drinking water wells and resulting in harmful algal blooms in lakes and rivers.
Agriculture’s harm to ecosystems can be mitigated by decreasing post-harvest waste, and by implying more sustainable fertilizer and pesticide use.