Global Water Availability and Requirements for Future Food Production

D. Gerte and J. Heinke of Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany conducted a study that compares, spatially explicitly and at global scale, per capita water availability and water requirements for food production presently (1971–2000) and in the future given climate and population change (2070–99).

A vegetation and hydrology model Lund–Potsdam–Jena managed Land (LPJmL) was used to calculate green and blue water availability per capita, water requirements to produce a balanced diet representing a benchmark for hunger alleviation [3000 kilocalories per capita per day (1 kilocalorie = 4184 joules), here assumed to consist of 80% vegetal food and 20% animal products], and a new water scarcity indicator that relates the two at country scale.

A country was considered water-scarce if its water availability fell below the water requirement for the specified diet, which is presently the case especially in North and East Africa and in southwestern Asia.

As a net effect of climate, CO2, and population change, water scarcity will become aggravated in many countries, and a number of additional countries are at risk of losing their present capacity to produce a balanced diet for their inhabitants.

Gerten, D., Heinke, J., Hoff, H., Biemans, H., Fader, M., and Waha, K. (2011). Global water availability and requirements for future food production. J. Hydrometeorol. 12, 885–899. doi: 10.1175/2011JHM1328.1

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