A quarter of global agriculture is grown in water-stressed regions

The tension between food and water will only intensify, according to a new report

Topics: Climate Change, drought, Agriculture, wheat, Food,

Deciding between food and water isn’t really a choice we’re able to make. But it’s a dilemma the world will increasingly face, according to a report released yesterday by the nonprofit World Resources Institute (WRI).

More than 25 percent of the world’s agriculture is currently grown in highly water-stressed areas, according to the report. That includes half of irrigated cropland, which itself is responsible for 40 percent of the global food supply.

Water stress is defined by the amount of water used in an area compared to its renewable supply. In highly water-stressed regions, 40 percent or more of the supply is used up annually. When that ratio gets up to 80 percent, it’s considered extreme.

An interactive map released along with the report shows where the most water-stressed crops are located, while this chart breaks down which crops we have to worry about:

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Water demand is forecasted to increase 50 percent by 2030, according to WRI. That will be driven in large part by agriculture; global calorie production will need to increase by 69 percent to feed the 9.6 billion people expected to be living on Earth by 2050. It’s yet another warning of our need to reduce food waste (currently, a full third of the world’s food is wasted) and, as WRI concludes, of the urgent need to find sustainable means by which we can increase food production.

Lindsay Abrams
Lindsay Abrams is a staff writer at Salon, reporting on all things sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @readingirl, email labrams@salon.com.

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