Seven solutions to jointly improve water security and food systems outcomes
BY CLAUDIA RINGLER ANDJENNA WILF
Water is vital for all life and integral to the functioning and productivity of Earth’s ecosystems. Water is also central to food systems—as a basic component of food and drink, and in production, processing, and preparation of food. Another use of water, WASH (water supply, sanitation, and hygiene), is essential for human health and nutrition. Access to water and sanitation is a basic human right, like the right to food. Unfortunately, water scarcity and pollution are becoming more prevalent and affecting poorer populations disproportionately, particularly farmers. Malnutrition levels are also on the rise, particularly in rural areas, and are strongly correlated with water scarcity.
Food systems transformation is essential to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6 on water and sanitation by 2030. Agriculture consumes most the world’s freshwater resources—currently, 85% of all freshwater withdrawals are used in agriculture, mostly for the production of cereals, sugarcane, and cotton. Nevertheless, the productivity of such irrigated systems is high—and demand for irrigation continues to grow as a result of growing climate extremes that make rainfed agriculture less resilient. Already today, irrigated crop areas produce 40% of global food on less than a third of global harvested land.