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A growing and increasingly wealthy global population is placing intense pressure on water resources. In the next 40 years, the world’s farmers will have to produce more food than they managed to produce in the previous 10,000. According to a United Nations report published in 2022, the global population is roughly 8 billion, which is expected to increase to about 9.7 billion by 2050, and then to 10.4 billion by 2100. The efforts required to feed this growing and increasingly affluent global populace will inevitably result in mounting demand for water and energy - at a time when worsening climate change is poised to dramatically diminish the availability of many water resources. Agriculture already places significant pressure on the world's freshwater reserves; it accounts for nearly 70% of global water withdrawals, and nearly 90% of withdrawals in countries where farming is most intensive. Unless substantial efforts are made to reduce food waste (about 1.3 billion tons of food produced for human consumption is wasted every year) and increase the water-use productivity of agriculture - that is, to get more crop per drop - water demand in the agricultural sector is projected to further increase. The UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has predicted that global food demand will increase by 70% by 2050. Meanwhile mounting interest in staple crops like maize and wheat is coinciding with a widespread dietary shift that has more people eating increasing amounts of livestock and poultry products - including meat, dairy, and eggs. Meat-based diets are more water-intensive than other varieties (cutting meat from a diet is estimated to reduce a person’s “water footprint” by about half). Already, aquifers in many regions with high-value farmland are being depleted, as nutrients from farm runoff are polluting drinking water wells and resulting in harmful algal blooms in lakes and rivers. Technology that can help increase crop yields and make plants more drought-resistant will become an increasingly pressing need. Agriculture's harm to ecosystems can also be mitigated by decreasing post-harvest waste, and by more judiciously using fertilizers and pesticides. Developed economies will likely adopt related technologies and techniques first, though the biggest benefits in terms of increasing crop yields will be realized in developing nations - particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.

Agriculture and Water Impact

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Agriculture and Water Impact