Water Smart Irrigation:

Water smart irrigation

A requirement for sustainable agriculture in the water value-chain

Water, especially in irrigated agriculture, poses one of the most vital sustainable development challenges of our time.

The importance of water is as follows:

  • Water is the key to food security:
  • without water, crops simply cannot grow.
  • Water is not just for primary production
  • it plays a vital role at all stages along the agricultural value chain
  • Water for agriculture connects us all together
  • In times of scarcity we all have a responsibility to use water wisely, efficiently and productively.
Global per capita water

Figure 1: Global per capita water availability (Global Water Initiative, 2005)


Water is crucial to development all over the world. It waters the fields; nurtures the crops and stock; provides recreation; it supports mines, industry; electricity generation and it provide life for plants and animals that make up ecosystems. The global water availability per capita can be seen in Figure 1. Many parts of the world will have less than 1 700 m3 per person per year by the year 2025.

Water for food

Figure: 2 Water in the World (United Nations Water)

The world’s population tripled in the twentieth century and the use of water resources has grown six fold and through proper management it made major contributions to food security, to electrically production and economic growth in general. The United Nations has developed an excellent infographic (See Figure 2) to illustrate the importance of water in food production and in the livelihoods of people. To grow food, we need water and the amount of water needed for its production is called virtual water (see Figure 2 for water needed to grow certain food products).

Virtual Water is the amount of water that is embedded in food or other products needed for its production. Virtual water refers to the amount of water required to produce a good from start to finish or it is the volume of freshwater used to produce the product, measured at the place where the product was produced. The following, to name but a few, is interesting to know:

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