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Water for agriculture

Farming accounts for around 70% of water used in the world today and also contributes to water pollution from excess nutrients, pesticides and other pollutants. But the competition for water is increasing and the costs of water pollution can be high.
Increased pressure from urbanisation, industrialisation and climate change will provide agriculture with more competition for water resources and climate change could affect water supply and agriculture through changes in the seasonal timing of rainfall and snow pack melt, as well as higher incidence and severity of floods and droughts.

Sustainable management of water in agriculture is critical to increase agricultural production, ensure water can be shared with other users and maintain the environmental and social benefits of water systems. Governments need to improve the economic efficiency and environmental effectiveness of policies that seek to improve water resource use efficiency and reduce water pollution from agricultural systems.


Agriculture is the biggest water user, with irrigation accounting for 70% of global water withdrawals
The industrial and domestic sectors account for the remaining 20% and 10%, respectively, although these figures vary considerably across countries. In most of the world's least developed countries, agriculture accounts for more than 90% of water withdrawals. Rainfed agriculture is the predominant agricultural production system around the world, and its current productivity is, on average, little more than 1/2 the potential obtainable under optimal agricultural management. Without improved efficiencies, agricultural water consumption is expected to increase globally by about 20% by 2050.

Water quality
According to the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation, at least 1.8 billion people world-wide are estimated to drink water that is faecally contaminated. An even greater number drink water which is delivered through a system without adequate protection against sanitary hazards. Guidelines for Drinking-Water Quality recommend that faecal indicator bacteria (FIB), preferably E. coli or alternatively thermotolerant coliform (TTC), should not be detectable in any 100 ml drinking water sample (WHO 2011). An adequate protection against sanitary hazards can for example be public taps or standpipes, tube wells or boreholes, protected dug wells, protected springs and rainwater collection.