Trade could be key to balancing conservation of freshwater sources and food security

phys.org | 4/20/2018 | Staff
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An IIASA study published in the journal Nature Sustainability today, evaluated whether water for the environment could be prioritized under growing competition from other sectors. The results indicate that this could be achieved by shifting crop production from water scarce- to water abundant regions and tripling international food trade.

Globally, the call to conserve or restore the ecological health and functioning of rivers and their associated wetlands for both human use and biodiversity is gaining traction and in many countries, efforts in this regard are already being supported by national and regional policies and legislation. To successfully implement these conservation efforts, methods have been developed to define environmental flows, in other words, the quantity, timing, and quality of water flows required to sustain freshwater and estuarine ecosystems, as well as the human livelihoods and wellbeing that depend on them. Global freshwater resources are however increasingly under pressure, with about 70 percent of water abstracted from freshwater ecosystems being used for the irrigation of agricultural crops. Around 40 percent of our food is in fact produced on irrigated lands, while the demand for water from industry, energy, and municipalities is also set to increase in the future.

Researchers - Assessments - Nexus - Account - Water

According to the researchers, previous global assessments of the food-water-environment nexus did not adequately take into account the water necessary to sustain the health of freshwater ecosystems—in some instances the dimension of "water for the environment" was not considered at all. The team wanted to understand the impact that strong protection and enforcement of environmental flow requirements would have on food security and to what extent the trade of crop and livestock products between countries would be able to buffer the impacts of enforcing these requirements.

"Irrigation is often considered a silver bullet for achieving food security because irrigated croplands are often more productive than rainfed croplands...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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