September 27, 2014--When the Wells Run Dry: Helping farmers grow more with less (Climate Confidential)

Water scarcity is closely linked to food insecurity and thus hunger and poverty. Today, some 2.8 billion people face water scarcity, a number that’s set to increase to half the world’s population by 2030, according to the United Nations. Forty percent of the world’s food is dependent upon irrigation, accounting for almost 70 percent of its freshwater withdrawals, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization. As droughts and unsustainable use are raising water awareness, farmers are implementing both old school methods and new technologies to use water more efficiently, delivering benefits throughout the food system. The old business dogma, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it,” holds especially true with water usage, but in many places around the world, the amount of water diverted from rivers or pumped from the ground to water crops is not measured. For example, groundwater in California was totally unregulated until this month. That’s a political problem, not a technical one, said Peter Gleick, cofounder of the Pacific Institute, an independent research organization focused on water issues. Water flow meters to measure water use are not new, nor expensive. It’s simply that in many places groundwater is considered a property right, so farmers have seen no need measure or justify its use. But as drought and overpumping are dropping water tables, some are beginning to recognize that it will benefit them to ensure that they use this resource sustainably.  

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