As part of Blog Action Day 2010, we are using this blog to look at water.
In bottles, from the tap, sparkling or flat, from an idyllic spring or a mountain creek: many of us take the ubiquity of safe drinking water for granted.
However, 1 billion people do not have adequate access to safe drinking water. Part of Goal 7 of the Millenium Development Goals is to halve that number by 2015. In order to achieve this we must understand the impact water scarcity can have on availability. In this guest blog, Emma Herman from Fairfood International takes a closer look at this precious resource.
We may well live on the Blue Planet, but some populated regions are getting dangerously dry, pushing people into thirst, hunger and poverty. Although we do not face a global water crisis yet, advocating a more sustainable use of water resources in agriculture is fundamental if we want to improve access to fresh water for all.
Why agriculture? Because according to the FAO 70% of global water use is related to agricultural activity. Rice is the thirstiest crop, with an annual production estimated to account for about 21% of global crop water use, followed by wheat at around 12%. Problems with the unsustainable use of water also occur in many other crops such as maize, mango, oranges, pineapple, sugar cane, coconut and ginger, amoungst others.
Sustainable use of water in agriculture implies more efficient management, especially of irrigation practices. In many dry regions of the globe, high crop yields and consequently food security and income gains are dependent on irrigation, which accounts for 60% of total available water resources in the Near East and North Africa.
Since all water on earth is part of the natural water cycle, even water used for agricultural processes will at a certain point need to be accessible for drinking and sanitation and so sustainable use of water also means a reduction in wastewater production, and minimising water pollution.
Access to clean and drinkable water are crucial for alleviating poverty and hunger. When water is polluted or scarce living conditions worsen dramatically, as do economic conditions for those active in agriculture. Not surprisingly, the FAO reminds us that the highest concentration of rural poverty coincides with the areas where water and sanitation are dramatically lacking.
So far, the goal of clean and healthy water accessible to all is far from being achieved. But a number of innovative solutions are coming out of international efforts, such as the idea of international standards of water sustainability, proposed by the Alliance for Water Stewardship, or a water footprint label on the products on supermarket shelves, stating the total amount of fresh water used in their production. You might be surprised to learn that it takes 200 litres of water just to produce your morning cup of latte!
If the ideal of more sustainable use of water is to become a reality, the food and beverage industry has to commit to this goal, take its responsibility and share knowledge and good practices concerning sustainable water use. Every drop counts: by adding individual improvements in water use made by brand owners in the food and beverage industry, large and small, a real change can be made.
Currently Fairfood are running an interesting viral video campaign Â‘Face Your FoodÂ’ to compel people to reflect on these issues and is well worth a look.