Water Shortage Means Food Shortage
The new online magazine e360 — or Yale Environment 360 — has an interesting feature on the role water scarcity plays in rising food prices.
Fred Pearce, environment consultant for New Scientist and author of When the Rivers Run Dry, writes that water shortages present one of the biggest dangers to the world’s food supply. While grain-based biofuels and rising oil prices are certainly driving up food prices, he says, no one seems to be paying attention to the importance of our most basic resource, which is gradually diminishing before our eyes. Pearce says:
With two-thirds of the water abstracted from nature going to irrigate crops — a figure that rises above 90 percent in many arid countries — water shortages equal food shortages.
In both China and India, Pearce says, food production has stalled because rivers are running dry while demand continues to soar. China’s Yellow River, for example, no longer reaches the sea, except during the short monsoon season.
Water scarcity should be a wakeup call, says Pearce, and should motivate the following actions:
… encourage a rethinking of biofuels, which are themselves major water guzzlers. It should prompt an expanding trade in food exported from countries that remain in water surplus, such as Brazil. And it should trigger much greater efforts everywhere to use water more efficiently.