Agriculture accounts for 70% of global water withdrawals

Find out how modern agricultural practices are leading to mass depletion of aquifers and water pollution, and learn how carocell solar water can help lessen the effects on our precious resources

Written by Rika Andini

Water is a crucial resource for both human survival and agriculture. However, the rapid population growth and increasing demand for food production have put a tremendous strain on our water resources. Agriculture is the biggest consumer of water resources, accounting for 70% of the total global water withdrawals. Irrigation systems and the expansion of farmland have significantly increased the amount of water consumed by agriculture. 1 Moreover, modern techniques such as industrial agriculture, with its excessive use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, have further increased the demand for water-intensive crops, causing mass depletion of aquifers and water pollution.

The traditional farming practices that were once sustainable have become inefficient and resource-demanding, with rising technological advancement and increased demand for profit. Industrial agriculture, characterized by larger scale farming and excessive use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, has significantly increased the demand for water-intensive crops. This has led to a mass depletion of aquifers, a rise in water pollution and the degradation of water-dependent ecosystems.

One of the main drivers of increased water withdrawal in agriculture is the growing demand for food and fiber, which will continue to increase as the population grows. As a result, there is a need to identify ways to reduce water usage in agriculture while meeting the increasing demand for food. With the effects of climate change, such practices will put even more pressure on global water resources. Therefore, sustainable farming practices, such as efficient irrigation systems and the use of drought-tolerant crops, are essential to reduce water usage in agriculture and ensure the availability of water for future generations.

Water withdrawal is the process of drawing water from natural sources such as rivers, lakes, and groundwater for human consumption. Water withdrawals can be classified into consumptive and non-consumptive withdrawals, depending on whether the water is returned to its source after use.

Agriculture is one of the biggest consumers of water resources and is responsible for the majority of global water withdrawals. Irrigation is the largest contributor to agricultural water withdrawals, followed by water usage in food production, processing, and livestock maintenance. Water is also necessary to maintain soil moisture for healthy plant growth.

In contrast to other sectors, agriculture accounts for a disproportionately high amount of water usage. The industrial and energy sector only uses 19% of global water withdrawals, while domestic water use accounts for just 8%. 2 Meanwhile, thermoelectric power plants are responsible for around 45% of total water withdrawals in the United States. These figures demonstrate the heavy reliance of agriculture on water resources and the potential for agriculture to contribute to water scarcity if not managed sustainably.

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Factors that contribute to high water withdrawals in agriculture

With the world’s population projected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, sustainable water management in agriculture is more important than ever. 3 Several factors contribute to high water withdrawals in agriculture, and it’s crucial to understand them to ensure sustainable water management practices

Irrigation practices and technologies are the most significant factors contributing to high water withdrawals in agriculture. Traditional irrigation techniques often result in high water loss and inefficient use of resources. However, modern irrigation technologies, such as drip irrigation and micro-irrigation, have the potential to reduce water usage by up to 50%. Farmers can also adopt precision farming technologies to reduce water usage further. Precision farming helps farmers manage their irrigation by providing real-time data on soil moisture, crop growth, and other environmental factors.

Crop selection and water requirements are other critical factors that impact water withdrawals in agriculture. Crops like rice and cotton require more water than other crops, making them more water-intensive. Farmers can select crops that have lower water needs, such as wheat and barley, to reduce water usage. Additionally, farmers can adopt sustainable crop production practices such as crop rotation, cover cropping, and integrated pest management (IPM) to reduce water requirements.

Climate and weather patterns also have a significant impact on water usage in agriculture. Climate change has led to increased variability in rainfall patterns, leading to water scarcity in some regions and excess water in others. Farmers must adapt to these changing weather patterns by adopting water-saving strategies. For instance, farmers can install rainwater harvesting systems that collect rainwater for use during dry seasons. In addition, farmers can adopt drought-resistant crop varieties and adjust planting schedules to reduce water usage.

Geographical location and soil types are additional factors that impact water usage in agriculture. Sandy soils tend to require more water than clay soils, while regions with high rainfall require less water for farming. Farmers can adopt soil conservation strategies like mulching, terracing, and conservation tillage to improve both soil properties and water use efficiency. Moreover, farmers can grow crops that are better adapted to the local conditions to reduce water usage.

Impacts of high water withdrawals in agriculture

The impacts of high water withdrawal in agriculture on both the environment and society are significant. One of the most apparent impacts is water scarcity and stress, which can lead to conflicts between different user groups and have significant economic and social impacts, particularly in developing countries. Moreover, as climate change continues to impact water resources, it is crucial to manage water sustainably to ensure that agriculture and other human needs can be met in the long term.


Another impact of high water withdrawal in agriculture is the depletion of groundwater resources, which are crucial for irrigation. Over-extraction can result in the drying up of wells and boreholes, leading to land subsidence and damage to infrastructure. Furthermore, it can take decades or even centuries for groundwater resources to replenish, affecting agriculture and surrounding communities.


Soil salinization and degradation is another impact of high water withdrawal in agriculture. Excessive irrigation can cause salt accumulation, which can be toxic to crops and result in a loss of yield. Additionally, soil erosion, nutrient leaching, and loss of organic matter can lead to soil degradation and reduce crop yield over time, leading to increased water withdrawals to compensate.


Finally, high water withdrawal in agriculture can have adverse impacts on aquatic ecosystems, affecting habitats and organisms that depend on them. Excessive withdrawal can lead to reduced water flow and contamination of water bodies with synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, causing algal blooms, oxygen depletion, and death of aquatic organisms. It is crucial to manage water sustainably in agriculture to avoid these negative impacts and ensure that water resources are available for future generations.


Strategies for reducing water withdrawals in agriculture

Water scarcity is a global challenge, and agriculture is responsible for withdrawing the largest amount of water annually. Improving farming practices is essential for conserving and safeguarding water resources. Various strategies can be used to conserve water in agriculture without sacrificing crop yields.


Improving irrigation efficiency is one of the most effective strategies for reducing water withdrawal in agriculture. Farmers can use irrigation methods that apply water directly to the root zone of the plant, reducing evaporation and runoff, such as drip irrigation and micro-sprinklers. They can also use soil moisture sensors and weather forecasts to optimize irrigation scheduling, ensuring crops receive the necessary amount of water. This reduces water waste and maximizes crop yield, contributing to sustainable agricultural practices overall.


Implementing water-saving technologies is another way of conserving water in agriculture. Precision agriculture technologies use sensors and data analytics to optimize irrigation, fertilizer usage, and seed planting. Smart irrigation systems automatically adjust water usage based on weather conditions and plant needs. Treated wastewater irrigation also allows farmers to reuse treated wastewater for irrigation. By implementing these technologies, farmers can reduce water withdrawals without sacrificing crop yields.


Crop selection and breeding for drought resistance is another effective way of reducing water withdrawal in agriculture. This approach involves choosing crops that require less water, are drought-tolerant and can achieve better yields. Breeding techniques can also be used to develop crop varieties that are more resistant to drought and require less water. Such initiatives encourage sustainable agricultural practices, reduce water consumption and help farmers become more resilient in the face of climate change.


Water harvesting and conservation techniques offer the potential to reduce the amount of water withdrawn from natural sources. These can include soil moisture conservation techniques, using greywater for irrigation, and rainwater harvesting. Rainwater harvesting involves collecting rainwater and storing it, which can then be utilized for household consumption, irrigation or livestock purposes. It is an integral part of sustainable water management practices and supports farmers’ productivity in drylands.

Case studies of successful water management in agriculture

Water management in agriculture is crucial for sustainable farming practices and the conservation of water resources. Several countries have implemented successful water management practices, setting examples for others to follow. Here are three case studies of successful water management in agriculture

Israel's water management practices:

Israel is a world leader in water management, with an arid climate and limited water resources. The country has implemented several water management practices that have helped farmers increase crop yields while conserving water. One of the key practices is drip irrigation, which provides water directly to the roots of the plant, reducing water waste and maximizing crop yields. Israel also has a robust system for wastewater treatment and reuse, where treated wastewater is used for irrigation, reducing the pressure on freshwater resources. 4

Australia's use of recycled wastewater in agriculture:

Australia is another country that faces water scarcity, particularly in its arid regions. To address this, the country has implemented a successful water management practice of using recycled wastewater for agriculture. Treated wastewater is used to irrigate crops, reducing the pressure on freshwater resources. This has helped farmers maintain crop yields and improve the quality of soil, while conserving water resources.

California's drought management strategies

California is one of the largest agricultural producers in the world but faces regular droughts, which put pressure on water resources. The state has implemented several successful drought management strategies, including water conservation and recycling, improving irrigation efficiency, and increasing the use of drought-resistant crops. California has also implemented a pricing scheme for water, where farmers pay more for water during droughts, encouraging them to conserve water and use it more efficiently. 5

Carocell's Technology for Sustainable Water Management in Agriculture

Carocell’s solar water purification technology offers a promising solution to sustainable agriculture management. The technology can effectively remove impurities, pathogens, and contaminants from water sources, which is particularly beneficial in areas with limited access to clean water. By using Carocell technology, farmers can reduce their dependence on freshwater sources and use alternative water sources, such as treated wastewater and brackish water, thereby promoting sustainable water management practices in agriculture. This can help reduce the depletion of groundwater resources and minimize water withdrawals from natural sources.

Moreover, Carocell’s solar water purification technology can help farmers manage their water resources effectively. The system can purify any water source, such as groundwater, surface water, or rainwater, making it suitable for irrigation purposes. This means that farmers can use non-potable water sources, reducing the pressure on already scarce freshwater resources. The system operates using solar energy, reducing energy costs and contributing to eco-friendly agriculture practices. By utilizing Carocell’s technology, farmers can effectively manage their water resources, increase crop yields, and promote sustainable agriculture practices that benefit both the environment and their financial bottom line.

Carocell Solar Water purification technology has undergone extensive testing and accreditation to ensure its efficacy and safety for use in various countries. It has already been installed in over 30 different countries, including Australia, Bangladesh, India, Mozambique, Malaysia, Kiribati, USA, Cambodia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, and Colombia, with more than 4,000 installations worldwide. The widespread adoption of Carocell technology reflects its proven effectiveness in addressing water scarcity and promoting sustainable agriculture practices.

In conclusion, sustainable water management is crucial for the future of agriculture. We have discussed the challenges of water scarcity and the potential solutions, including the use of Carocell Solar water purification technology, which can remove impurities and contaminants from water sources, making it safe for agricultural use. By using non-potable water sources, such as treated wastewater and brackish water, farmers can reduce their reliance on freshwater sources and promote sustainable water management practices in agriculture.

As consumers, we can also play a role in supporting sustainable agriculture practices by choosing to purchase products from farms that prioritize sustainable water management and conservation. It is essential to recognize the impact of our daily choices and take action to support a sustainable future.

Tirta Murni Nusantara

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Kecamatan Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, 80571

+ 62 821 4645 0217


AHU-0020799.AH.01.04 Tahun 2022

Berita Negara No 080 Tahun 2022

Akta Notaris
no 09, 30 September 2022

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