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The Global Water Footprint of Key Crops - Why You Should Care!

Green Lifestyle  (tags: agriculture, business, environment, investigation, research, science, technology, WATER )

- 2121 days ago -
In order to grow the corn for your tortilla and the cotton for your T-shirt, farmers rely on freshwater from the world's river basins. Whether crops get watered by rain only or by irrigation as well, much of the water gets "consumed" -->


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Kit B (276)
Wednesday September 4, 2013, 8:55 am
See Graphic at VISIT SITE ---

The world’s population has surpassed seven billion, and that means more people rely on a finite amount of freshwater. The majority of that water is used in agriculture, and in this interactive we take a look at the impact of some of the most important crops produced for U.S. consumption.

In order to better understand water use and availability trends, scientists divide the Earth’s surface into river basins. This feature examines some of the river basins that are the most important from an agricultural perspective. In each basin, the primary source of water is precipitation. Rain and snow feeds the river and its tributaries, as well as groundwater, ponds, and lakes. Precipitation also adds moisture to the soil, and crops take up the moisture through their roots.

Most crops around the world are grown using only the soil moisture provided by rainfall. When this moisture is insufficient, farmers apply more water through irrigation. Some rain or irrigation water evaporates without benefiting the plant, while some transpires through the plant's tissues during photosynthesis and returns to the atmosphere. Water transformed into vapor in either of these ways is not available for use again in that local area, so in practical terms, it is lost or "consumed."

Different crops have different water needs, which vary with the climate in which they’re grown. Scientists at the University of Twente in the Netherlands have used modeling techniques to estimate the amount of water consumed by the various crops grown in river basins around the world. These are the data we use in this feature.

Fortunately, there are things farmers can do to reduce water consumption. Instead of flooding fields or sprinkling, they can use drip irrigation, which cuts evaporation losses by delivering water directly to the roots of plants. Such techniques are particularly important in dry regions, where heavy water consumption is depleting rivers and even causing some to dry up for portions of the year, as is currently the case with the Colorado, the Indus, the Murray, the Rio Grande, and others.

Learn more about global water footprints from the Water Footprint Network and about rivers and watersheds from The Nature Conservancy. Find out how much water is consumed to make everyday things and try our water footprint calculator to get a snapshot of your own consumption. Also check out our water wiz puzzle for kids. (Active links at VISIT SITE)

National Geographic Environment and Water

. (0)
Wednesday September 4, 2013, 10:04 am
Done. Try tracking the water usage by all GMO crops. I'll bet you it's a lot higher than we realize it.

Mike M (8)
Wednesday September 4, 2013, 11:01 am

Gloria p (304)
Wednesday September 4, 2013, 11:17 am

Arielle S (313)
Wednesday September 4, 2013, 11:23 am
No water, no life. We have three rain barrels and 1/4" of rain fills them all up. We keep a bucket in the shower to catch that water. Energy-efficient washer and dishwasher. Doin' what we can but boy, does my blood boil when I see the sprinklers at businesses running full blast during a rain....

Kit B (276)
Wednesday September 4, 2013, 11:41 am

Thanks Arielle, that's really inexcusable and here if someone did that, they would be fined. If a business did that they just might get a gold star for landscaping improvements.

S S (0)
Wednesday September 4, 2013, 12:27 pm
Thank you.

Past Member (0)
Wednesday September 4, 2013, 12:29 pm
Thank you

Colleen L (3)
Wednesday September 4, 2013, 12:46 pm
Pledge taken. Thanks Kit

Patricia H. (440)
Wednesday September 4, 2013, 1:37 pm

David C (75)
Wednesday September 4, 2013, 2:10 pm
its all connected.

Mary Donnelly (47)
Wednesday September 4, 2013, 4:32 pm
Thanks again Kit.

marie T (163)
Wednesday September 4, 2013, 4:44 pm
Noted thanks Kit

JL A (281)
Wednesday September 4, 2013, 6:03 pm
I will retain the data that the fruits/vegetables use a lot less than meat, dairy or grains--so potatoes better than rice. Might also be healthier diets and less GMO.

Thanks for helping educate people Kit--I get so tired of people saying their use doesn't affect others because they use well water.

Bryna Pizzo (139)
Wednesday September 4, 2013, 6:05 pm
Thank you for the excellent post, Kit.

Kit B (276)
Wednesday September 4, 2013, 6:33 pm

Thanks for the many interesting comments. As J L said, it is all water and much sooner than we expect that is going to be very important.

reft h (66)
Wednesday September 4, 2013, 11:33 pm

Past Member (0)
Thursday September 5, 2013, 4:14 am
Thanks Kit, another interesting article.

Past Member (0)
Thursday September 5, 2013, 6:43 am

Frances Darcy (92)
Thursday September 5, 2013, 1:46 pm
noted ... ta Kit

Phillipa W (199)
Saturday September 7, 2013, 9:31 am
I think a lot of people forget food when considering human impact on the environment yet it's THE single biggest contributor to harm to the planet.
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