To determine how we can best make use of our available water we first need to view how it is being used already. Figure 1. shows the water usage across NSW. From the data gathered by the Australian Bureau of Statistics we can see that the amount of water used in agriculture was on the rise from 2011 to 2014 but almost halved in 2015 due to recent advancements in agricultural practices (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2017). However the amount of water required for agriculture is more substantial than any other industry. This is why it is important to look at how water is being distributed within agriculture.
Figure 2. Depicts how water is distributed to various crops and livestock in Australia. It is important to note how much more water it takes to produce livestock compared to crops but it is also important to determine if better practices could be put in place to reduce any water wastage. One of the challenges primary producers around the world face is the land. Most farming land around the world is not suitable for farming and a lot of water is used to make the land fertile enough (KATZ, 2016). Therefore it is not viable to expand into more land that would require more water usage, instead we need to determine the best way to use to the water and land already available to us.
One way science has determined to help the environment is through the use of biofuels. And while the use of biofuels is helping the green environment the production of biofuel crops uses much more water than crops for consumption. For example the use of corn for ethanol fuel needs 5678 litres of water to produce 1 litres of ethanol (UK Biofuels, 2010). For this reason many countries are not investing resources into producing biofuels. Another issue that agriculture is faced with is water wastage. A study into agricultural water efficiency found that 63% of water delivered to the field in irrigation is wasted (Wallace, 2000). 63% water wastage equates to thousands and thousands of litres of water being wasted which could be greatly improved through innovative science and design.
There are many challenges we must face in the future with a booming population. One of the most pressing issues is water use and consumption. It is important for us as a global community to determine how we can best use our current resources and improve agricultural practices for future generations. Water use is not just an issue for the future population, it is an issue for now. It is our job to determine best practices for the future through a combination of innovative research, science and design.
By: Mathew Busch