How The Agricultural Industry Can Improve Water Usage
Everyone knows the environmental impact carbon emissions have on the environment, speeding up climate change and causing extreme weather conditions.
However, fewer people are aware of the importance of using water conservatively, as resources are quickly diminishing across the world, which not only exacerbates climate change, but could also put human and animal life at risk.
Is there a global water problem?
Although it can often feel as though there is still plenty of rainwater pouring down, especially in the UK, the world is actually facing a water crisis.
According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), 1.1 billion people across the world are not able to access water.
What’s more, over one million die every year from diseases caused by poor sanitation and hygiene from polluted water, with one child passing away every two minutes from a water-related illness.
“Many of the water systems that keep ecosystems thriving and feeding a growing human population have become stressed,” it states.
There are many causes of this worsening water crisis, including climate change having an impact on weather patterns; a growing global population resulting in greater stress on available water sources; and rivers and lakes becoming too polluted to use.
The WWF reports that more than half the world’s wetlands have disappeared, and two-thirds of the world might face water shortages within the next year.
One of the main culprits for this water crisis is the agricultural industry, as it uses more water than any other sector. At the same time, its use of water is inefficient, and its waste often ends up polluting freshwater sources.
What can the agricultural sector do to help the water crisis?
The agricultural sector is heavily reliant on freshwater sources, using it to water plants and give to their animals.
However, farmers need to improve their water usage, as they run the risk of running out one day. In fact, Southern Water predicts that the region is at risk of being in a water deficit as soon as 2030 if changes are not made now.
That is why it is reminding the sector of the importance of using water sustainably because without water, animals will not have access to drink, and plants cannot be nurtured.
“Without water, we couldn’t produce the food that we need to survive,” the company states.
Therefore, companies need to make improvements immediately, as it has never been more important to be sustainable with water usage.
- Find leaks
One of the biggest causes of water waste is leaks in pipes. That is why it is a good idea to hire consultants to make water leak repairs, as this will dramatically reduce the amount that is lost for no reason.
Leaks are incredibly common, as they can be caused by deterioration of pipes due to age; damage to the pipes from animals, weather erosion or heavy vibration of traffic; and poor connection of joints and valves.
Having a leak not only causes untold environmental damage, but also wastes a considerable amount of money for businesses, potentially amounting to more than £100,000 a year.
- Reduce pollution
The agricultural sector is also responsible for causing pollution due to poor land management practices.
For instance, the fertilisers used on crops cause nitrates to enter groundwater, which then alters the composition of lakes and rivers. This effect on its biodiversity affects fish and plantlife, which has an impact on the wider environment.
According to the Food and Agricultural Organization’s director of land and water division Eduardo Mansur: “In most high-income countries and many emerging economies, agricultural pollution has overtaken contamination from settlements and industries as the main factor in the degradation of inland and coastal waters.”
- Sustainable land management practices
Farmers should use more sustainable land management practices, as this will improve the quality of their soil, which will, in turn, protect water sources.
For instance, they could increase water retention by limiting tillage practices, rotating crops and covering crops.
They could reduce their reliance on pesticides, which end up polluting waterways, through integrated pest management practices, such as biological control and crop rotation.
Additionally, they could reduce soil erosion and improve its absorption of water by promoting sustainable feeding practices and managing grazing patterns.
- Be more water efficient
It is also essential for the industry to become more water efficient, such as by improving its irrigation efficiency with drip irrigation.
Farmers could also adopt conservation practices, such as rainwater harvesting, always turning taps off, using water butts, and contour farming.
Not only does collecting rainwater to re-use save them having to use water from the mains, but it reduces the amount of water running off the land, particularly during heavy showers.
This can cause pollutants, such as soil and debris, to enter rivers and lakes, resulting in more pollution to the freshwater supplies.
- Reduce carbon footprint
Those in the agricultural sector could also take steps to limit their carbon footprint, as climate change is having a huge impact on the water crisis.
For instance, the world heating up means glaciers are melting, which is changing weather patterns. Torrential rains and floods then cause waste and dirt to run off into freshwater sources, making them unsafe for consumption and, therefore, unusable.
It is also causing droughts, which means valuable water sources are drying up, and freshwater is becoming increasingly out of reach for millions of people around the world.
However, it is not just a problem for hot countries to face, as the UK is beginning to see the effects of the water crisis.
According to Southern Water, 15 regions in the UK are “seriously water stressed”.
So much so that the Environment Agency has claimed England is at risk of “running short of water” by 2040 if changes are not made immediately.
This is why everyone, including the agricultural sector, needs to do their bit to conserve the water they use, reduce the amount they waste, and be more considerate about toxins they release to limit the water pollution they cause.