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Modernization Insights

Why we need to improve water use productivity

The 2030 Water Resources Group has outlined what they call the “water gap” – the growing difference between freshwater supply and demand. The group’s members include The International Finance Corporation (part of the World Bank), McKinsey & Company and a consortium of businesses including Coca Cola, Nestlé, New Holland Agriculture and SAB Miller.

According to the group’s report Charting Our Water Future: Economic Frameworks to Inform Decision-Making, unless we make efficiency gains, by 2030 global freshwater demand is set to be 40 percent above the existing accessible, reliable and sustainable supply of freshwater as outlined in the diagram below.

The report outlines some key actions that both governments and industry can take to close the gap. Not surprisingly, with 70 percent of the world’s water used in agriculture, food production and the water it uses was identified as a fundamental part of the water challenge in the four countries it examined (India, China, Brazil and South Africa).

One of the main opportunities for closing the water supply-demand gap is to increase the water productivity of irrigated agriculture. This entails either increasing the efficiency of water use (producing the same output with less water) or increasing production for the same water – more crop per drop.

If the projections are correct, we can expect stakeholders to increasingly look to the irrigation industry for the innovations that can achieve the productivity gains needed to close the gap. 

Copies of the report can be downloaded here