Agriculture’s Water Challenge Is About to Get a Lot Worse

Across the globe, reports of debilitating droughts are reaching all-time highs and the demand for water is ever-growing. What does that mean for the agriculture industry, the largest user of the global water supply? 

According to a new study published in the American Geophysical Union journal Earth’s Future, it means a major increase in water scarcity problems. Researchers predict that, by 2050, agricultural water scarcity across the world’s croplands will increase by more than 80 percent. 

Researchers predict that shifting precipitation patterns and evaporation due to rising temperatures will cause about 16 percent of global croplands to experience water scarcity due to changes in available green water—or water within the soil. 

The study is unique in that it developed an index that accounts for agriculture’s two main water sources: green water, the portion of rainwater that is available to plants in the soil; and blue water, which is irrigation water taken from rivers, lakes and groundwater. The final prediction is the first comprehensive, worldwide index to look at how climate change will gravely impact the future scarcity of both water sources as opposed to focusing on only one.  

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