Will there be enough water and food for the ever increasing population in the next half century? Will the existing human capacity be able to do that? The answer can be a YES. But with the present trends of water management and acute fresh water challenges faced by the world, the task becomes more complex. The world population increased to 7 billion from 2.5 billion in 1950. Area irrigated doubled and water drawls tripled since then.
There is a growing competition for water between pastoralists and herders, rural and urban, upstream and downstream. But are we doing the right things? Production levels have to be up, yield from rainfed agriculture has to go up, regional-wise policy planning has to be made. What ails water management policy making? How do we perceive the present scenario? Water for food affects different ecosystems in the biosphere. Different people are assigning different importance and priority to water. The maximum per capita water requirement is 3000 litres. Out of the global blue water availability of 3800 Cu.Km irrigation alone takes out 2700 Cu.Km. This brings adverse changes in the eco-system. These changes can be avoided if the water is managed properly.
The current realities point to different trends. More water use brought more agricultural productivity. The average daily per capita food supply rate has gone up from 2400 K.cal in 1970 to 2899 K.cal in2 000. Land – water productivity went up from 1.4 metric ton per hectare to 2.7 metric ton per hectare. These were on the positive side. While negative trends indicate the number of malnourished grew to 850 million. Water wastage and pollution levels increased. Grazing lands are under pressure. Groundwater levels are diminishing. Water management in basins is poor. Water management institutions are slow in their initiative. And there are conflicting trends like agriculture versus environment; increased urbanization needs against rural farm needs, changes in food habits from vegetables, cereals to fish, meat that need aquaculture. Energy prices are constantly on the up. Climate changes are adverse.
The water occurrence is excess in certain areas, while it is scarce in the other areas. The economic scarcity of water is reflecting in lack of infrastructure, poor distribution of water among stakeholders. There also is not enough water for all demands. New and conflicting demands are on the rise. The only option we are left with is management of water, which is finite. Without which the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) for sustainable development of the UN would not be achieved. The future demands in the next 50 years indicate doubling of food and feed crop production. Catering to the requirements that come with changes in the food habits of people. 70% to 90% more water is needed for agriculture. Energy demands are to be up by another 60%. Increased yields are to come from rainfed agriculture and agricultural trade has to be encouraged.
To modify the current trends and to meet the future agricultural water requirements, several policies have been formulated that include bringing about changes in the perceptions to water, fighting poverty through increasing access to agricultural water, enhancing ecosystem through agricultural water usage, increasing land and water productivity, making difficult choices and adopting innovative practices for changing agriculture water requirements.