one-third of the global population, the world is poised to experience even more fresh water constraints due to issues such as a growing global population, pollution, and also drought due to global climate change¹. Just like our global energy use, we must take swift and decisive action to prevent the water wastes that are occurring around the world so that we can provide a sustainable future for future generations and the environment.
Because agriculture accounts for 70% of global water resource use, and because about 60% of that water is actually wasted through runoff or evapotranspiration, the human family can make a huge impact on global freshwater supplies if we re-evaluate how we are using water in agriculture and take water conservation seriously²,³.
By improving water use and management in agriculture, humanity will increase the water resources that are available to those that need it the most, help developing communities around the world in a sustainable manner, reduce soil erosion, reduce conflicts over natural resources, and help to ensure food security for everyone.
The following list discusses a number of ways that humanity can reduce water consumption on farms throughout the world.
- Make irrigation efficient
- Existing irrigation systems must be efficient and contain no leaks that waste water.
- Irrigation systems can be optimized to water only when and where water is needed.
- Soil moisture can be directly measured to determine the current water needs of individual crops.
- Drip irrigation lines can be used that only water a plant’s roots instead of the surrounding soil as well.
- Ground cover fabrics can help to reduce evapotranspiration as well as to block weeds from growing between crop plants.
- Support healthy soil
Methods that can help to maintain healthy soil include adding compost, residue management, conservation tillage, and no tilling farming techniques. The use of contours and swales on the farming landscape also help to hold water high on the landscape and to prevent erosion.
- Permaculture farming methods
Hugelkultur techniques, which essentially involve growing plants in mounds of woody debris buried in soil, retain moisture quite well and provide excellent nutrition to the soil. Such systems are often used in small scale growing systems such as in gardens, but some people have experienced success when applying hugelkultur techniques on the farm-scale, such as Sepp Holzer, a farmer from Austria.
- Growing more water efficient crops
It is also important to grow crops that are well-suited to local climate conditions. For example, it makes the most sense to grow those crops in a desert-type climate that tolerate more hot and dry conditions, such as fig trees and moringa trees.
- Rainwater harvesting
- Permanent Raised Crop Beds
- Reduce Food Waste