March 22 is World Water Day, which is observed as part of the United Nations International Year of Water Cooperation. This week, Food Tank will share tips and information about water conservation in the food system.
Although about 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered in water, only 0.001 percent of that is available for human consumption. 70 percent of our water is used in agriculture, and as water supplies face mounting pressures from a growing population, climate change, and an already troubled food system, critical action on water security has become necessary.
Management and use of water differ widely by country. In 2012, the United States, which ranks as a top water glutton, underwent the most severe and extensive drought in 25 years, which will have lasting effects on food and fuel prices. Couple that with other droughts and extreme weather events in other parts of the world, notably in the African Sahel, and water resources, as well as people’s livelihoods and wellbeing, are clearly at stake.
Good management of water systems is especially challenging due to the unique nature of water: it is unevenly distributed over the planet, and the water cycle is so complex that damage has lasting effects that span space and time. In addition, countries are urbanizing at different rates, and pollution and climate change further threaten this resource in the face of humanity’s increasing demands. Since water is a shared resource, collaboration must be at the heart of any strategy to manage it.
While human and environmental pressures are increasing, so are opportunities to address these problems. Developments are cropping up around the world. The Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition, for example, recently released a report on the crossovers between healthy and sustainable diets, focusing on the “water footprint” of different foods. Novel, eye-catching projects, like this Peruvian billboard that turns atmospheric humidity into potable water, are providing innovative methods of addressing water scarcity.
This year’s World Water Day will focus on cooperation in water conservation. Be sure to visit the U.N.’s World Water Day website for more details about events, including activities near you, and check back with Food Tank regularly for more posts about reducing your water footprint. You can also learn more about water issues from the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition, UN-Water, and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).