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Water in Biodiversity and Agriculture

“Globally, the potential of rainfed agriculture is large enough to meet present and future food demand through increased productivity.”
(IWMI 2007, 16)

Water is an integral aspect of agriculture and ecosystem services, but increasing demand has put serious pressures on its provision, availability and quality. 50 years ago, the world’s population was fewer then half the people of today. In general, people consumed fewer calories, including meat, and thus required one third of the water we now use.

Today, freshwater withdrawals from lakes and rivers doubled (since 1960) with 70% worldwide used for agriculture. Reduced availability of water in many areas constrains food production, exacerbating hunger and poverty, and reduces other ecosystem services provided by water.

Poor water quality has serious affects on human health and biodiversity and hence on ecosystem services. Regulating services of wetlands includes nutrient cycling and flood and pollution control, essential services for healthy environments and productive agriculture.

The FAO, CBD, CGIAR and Ramsar co-sponsored the International Water Management Institute's Water for Food, Water for Life: A Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture. It critically evaluates the benefits, costs, and impacts of the past 50 years of water development, the water management challenges communities are facing today, and solutions people have developed. The results will enable better investment and management decisions in water and agriculture in the near future and over the next 50 years.

For more information about water in fisheries and aquaculture, visit the Ecosystems page of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Department of the Food and Agriculture Organization.

  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme