Water Industry News

Increased Water Demand ‘No.1 Threat’ To Food Security

The biggest threat to global food security over the next 20 years will be increased demand for water, according to a new report published in the One Earth journal… but collaboration between environmental, climate and political research areas could shore up food security so it’s strengthened against a range of different threats.


The study, carried out by a team of researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder, revealed other top threats, including drought and heatwaves, ecosystem service collapse, marine heatwaves, income inequality, political instability and migration, pest disease and outbreaks.


While solutions are being developed that will help improve the resilience of food systems, researchers and policymakers often work in isolation, only dealing with one issue at a time.


But the researchers found that there is a pressing need for increased collaboration and coordination, in order to ensure that policymakers have updated and relevant models, tools and information to manage threats as they occur.


Lead author of the study Zia Mehrabi – assistant professor of environmental studies – said: “We provide strong support for the idea of building more resilient food systems in general, rather than trying to deal with individual problems here and there.


“It doesn’t matter whether it’s a climate, environmental or political shock to the system. If you have resilient systems in place, they’ll be able to deal with all the different kinds of shocks.”


Figures from the United Nations and the World Bank show that global hunger levels last year surpassed the previous 2020 record, while acute food insecurity in many parts of the world could continue to worsen this year.


Furthermore, recent World Bank analysis has also found that the Ukraine war, economic fallout following the pandemic and supply chain disruptions are all converging to reverse years of development gains, which is pushing the price of food to an all-time high.


This, in turn, is having an impact on the UN’s 2030 target to end hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition in all its forms.


Mr Mehrabi went on to say: “We can see it happening in our world right now – conflict and climate getting worse. The trends show, and experts agree, on this getting worse in the future.


“How are we going to build and govern food systems that are resilient to all different kinds of shocks and extreme events? We need to start thinking about how we can build systems that can adapt and cope with all of them.”


The demand for water, food and energy is on the rise around the world, in line with a rising global population, economic growth, a change in diet and increased urbanisation. According to the UN, agriculture is the biggest consumer of freshwater resources around the world, while over a quarter of energy used goes on food production and supply.


As such, an integrated approach to ensuring water security and food supply resilience could prove beneficial, promoting sustainable agriculture and energy production around the world.


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