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New Issue of IFPRI Forum Outlines Ways to Prevent Global Water Crisis

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

February 2009: The lead article of the latest issue of “IFPRI Forum,” a newsletter published by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and its 2020 Vision Initiative, describes the looming global water crisis, outlines its causes and presents approaches towards more sustainable water management.

The article notes that, while many regions are already affected by water scarcity, current trends could lead to annual global losses of 350 million metric tons of food production by 2025. It explains that the causes of water scarcity include changes in population, diet patterns, demographics, detrimental policy choices, as well as climate change, noting that climate change affects water availability through higher water consumption through crops and changes in precipitation patterns often lead to a net decline in rainfall. In addition, the boost in biofuel production is mounting competition for scarce land and water resources.

The article further shows that water scarcity is often the consequence of poor governance rather than physical water scarcity, stressing that both knowledge and technologies for sustainable water management exist, and outlines options for increasing water use efficiency, such as renovating irrigation infrastructure and using just-in-time irrigation techniques and improved crop varieties. Other options include trading “virtual water” by importing water intensive crops from countries with greater water resources, carefully designed water pricing schemes, and more efficient water use by the private sector. The article concludes that, with the right policies, the right technologies, and some ingenuity, a major crisis can be avoided, noting however, that the solutions will take time, political commitment and financial support. [IFPRI Forum Vol.1 (2009)]