Agriculture, Water and Ecosystems

Over the next few decades, agricultural production is expected to expand in order to feed a growing global population. Since the amount of food needed is expected to roughly double by 2050, this is a real cause for concern in terms of water use. Increases in populations and incomes, and shifts in markets and people’s preferences for particular foods, will mean that more water will be needed for food production. And, almost every increase in water used in agriculture will affect water availability for other uses – including that needed to keep ecosystems healthy and resilient in the face of change and perturbation. Loss of resilience leads to more vulnerable systems, and possible ecosystem shifts to undesired states that provide fewer ecosystem services. So, in the future, agriculture will have to strike a balance between the water required for food and the water needed to keep ecosystems healthy.

March 2015