25% of Global Ag Production Happens Under High Water Stress

November 14, 2013 07:00 AM
25% of Global Ag Production Happens Under High Water Stress

More than 25% of global agricultural production happens in regions that are under high or extremely high water stress. That’s one of the findings from an analysis by the nonprofit World Resources Institute (WRI) as part of its Aqueduct project. The analysis can be explored using an interactive map published online at wri.org.

The analysis defines water stress as "the ratio of total water withdrawals to available renewable supplies." High-risk means at least 40% of supply is withdrawn annually, while extremely high-risk means at least 80% is withdrawn over the same period.

More than half (56%) of irrigated cropland is at high or greater risk, the analysis says. The major commodity crops with the highest percentage of production under water stress are cotton (57%), wheat (43%), maize (35%), oranges (33%) and sugar cane (31%). Soybeans are listed at No. 8 (19%) with rice at No. 6 (29%).

When grouped by type, fiber crops are under the most water stress (53%). Cereals ranked as fourth-most stressed (34%) with oil crops last on the list (22%).

Referencing a forecast that anticipates a 50% increase in water demand by 2030, WRI says stakeholders must work together to boost crop yields with better water and soil management, reduce food loss, adopt healthier diets, cut demand for biofuel and more. 

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