Competition for water resources is increasing as agriculture, municipalities, and industries pull from the same scarce freshwater sources. The World Resources Institute’s (WRI) has unveiled Aqueduct Food (beta), a new tool that maps current and future water risks to crop production around the world. New findings from Aqueduct Food show that 32% of all irrigated crop production faces extremely high water stress, which will increase to 40% by 2040; and the amount of rainfed crop production facing extremely high seasonal variability of water supply will more than quadruple from 2010 to 2040, as climate change takes an increasing toll.
This beta tool overlays the International Food Policy Research Institute’s (IFPRI’s) crop and food security data with Aqueduct’s widely used water risk indicators to identify global trends and hotspots. Aqueduct Food contains data for more than 40 crops, including bananas, coffee, soybeans, corn, wheat, rice, cotton, and more. The map and interactive widgets allow analysis of crops globally and by country for exposure to water stress, drought risk, rising demand, commodity prices, population growth, and climate change.
Global water demand has more than doubled since the 1960s, and agriculture accounts for 70% of the world’s freshwater withdrawals. Irrigated and rainfed crops are vulnerable to differing types of water risks, which Aqueduct Food distinguishes for maximum utility. For example, risks related to competing demands are most pertinent to irrigated crops. One new finding from Aqueduct Food is that more than half of the world’s irrigated wheat production is already exposed to extremely high water stress. By 2040—due to growing demand for water and climate change—72% of irrigated wheat production may occur in extremely high water stressed areas.
On the other hand, rainfed crops are highly vulnerable to climate change impacts such as drought risk and variability of water supply. While farmers are used to some level of variability, climate change is intensifying the unpredictability of water flows far beyond the norm. Aqueduct Food shows that 12% of rainfed banana production already faces high to extremely high seasonal variability, but by 2040, it will be 45%.
To feed the world in 2040, we will need to produce 42% more food than in 2010, according to the WRI. Aqueduct Food provides projections out to 2040 that take into account changes in the climate and population growth. The tool can be used to screen for risks across a portfolio of locations; show areas of the world where water stress, seasonal variability, and coastal eutrophication will increase due to socioeconomic growth and climate change; and identify hotspots.
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