Global
Agriculture

Our precious liquid

Water is essential to economic and social development.
Although a large part of the earth is covered by water, this does not mean that every pond we find can be considered a water resource.
 

Water is only a resource when it can be used for economic benefit and is suitable for consumption either by humans, industry or the agricultural sector. We normally find economically viable water in rivers, lakes, reserves and in the ground.

Every country and city needs to carefully plan how it will use its water resources. Although water can be “re-used”, pollution and waste significantly reduce its availability. Less than 1 percent of the world’s available water is potable (drinkable). Of this amount, the worldwide distribution is very unequal. Brazil, for example, has 14 percent of the world’s potable water, but only 2.8 percent of the world’s population. Water is distributed through international water reservoirs (so called because they are located in more than one country). Since 1990, several countries have come together to manage their reservoirs better, avoiding unequal distribution and damage to the environment.

 

Everybody is responsible for preserving water. However, farmers play a critical role. Worldwide, agriculture consumes more than 80 percent of available water (the industrial sector uses around 7 percent and households around 5 percent). Farmers therefore need to make every effort to ensure that they consume water responsibly.

 

In the Middle East, for example, sea water is plentiful, while freshwater is scarce. In response to this situation, some Middle Eastern countries have established a system of desalination plants that can extract salt and other impurities from both sea water and the freshwater needed for agricultural purposes. Thus scarce freshwater is recycled so that it can be used over and over again.

 

The quality of the harvest remains the same, even though less water is being used. If farmers all over the world used water as efficiently as in the Middle East, average consumption would drop by 40 percent. The clear message is that responsible practices can improve energy and water efficiency.

 

Down the drain

On average, the world wastes 35 percent of its available, ready-to-use water. This is mainly due to problems with the water supply infrastructure, such as leakages, neglected plumbing systems and unauthorized water channels created in poor areas.

 

Well hydrated

In developed countries, middle class households consume, on average, 560 liters of water per person per day, which is the equivalent of 149 gallons*.

 

  • 50 percent for washing and watering the garden, yard, swimming pool and car
  • 22.5 percent for sanitation
  • 15 percent for bathing and personal use
  • 10 percent for laundry and washing dishes in the kitchen
  • 2.5 percent for cooking and drinking.

* each gallon contains 3.785 liters
Source: Atlas Ambiental – Bebedouro, Sao Paulo, Brazil