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258. World Water Day

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March 22 is World Water Day. It was first proposed at the Earth Summit (United Nations Conference on Environment and Development) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992, and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993 to encourage member countries to organize activities on this day.

JIRCAS is promoting research on the effective use of water resources with domestic and overseas research institutes. In Program A (Environmental and Natural Resource Management), we are pursuing the development of intensive watershed management models for soil-erosion prone areas and sustainable water management systems in water-vulnerable areas. In Program B (Stable Agricultural Production), we are working on the development of highly productive crops that can adapt to environmental stresses such as drought, salt damage, and poor soils.

The State of Food and Agriculture 2020 published by FAO last year emphasized the following core messages on securing and sustainable use of water resources:

1. 3.2 billion people live in agricultural areas with high to very high water shortages and scarcity, of whom 1.2 billion (about one-sixth of the world's population) live in agricultural areas with severe water shortages. 

2. Population growth is a major cause of water scarcity, with annual freshwater resources declining by more than 20% over the last 20 years.

3. Socio-economic development is also one of the important driving factors for increasing demand for water, and a sustainable diet at the food systems level can reduce water consumption.

4. Competition for water and climate change have created tensions and conflicts among stakeholders, exacerbating inequality in access to water, especially for vulnerable people, including rural poor, women and indigenous populations.

5. According to the first estimates of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Indicator 6.4.2 on water stress and shortages in rained agriculture, ensuring sustainable water management remains a challenge. It suggests that proper management of scarce water resources is also important for achieving the achievement of other SDGs, especially SDG2 (Zero Hunger).

6. The SDGs cannot be achieved without the more productive and sustainable use of freshwater and rainwater in agriculture, which accounts for more than 70% of global withdrawals.

7. In order to improve the sustainability of water use in agriculture, it is necessary to secure environmental flow to maintain the ecosystem, and this will require reducing withdrawals and improving water-use efficiency in those watersheds where environmental flow requirements are not guaranteed.

8. Water accounting and auditing should be the starting point for effective strategies to address water scarcity and its response. The FAO sourcebook (http://www.fao.org/3/i5923e/i5923e.pdf) provides guidelines on how to proceed.

9. For 128 million hectares (11%) of rainfed farmlands affected by recurring droughts, water-saving technologies can increase production by up to 24%, and can increase by more than 40% when combined with irrigation.

10. For 656 million hectares (14%) of grazing land affected by drought, various measures indirectly related to water, such as disease control and animal health, livestock feeding and drinking management, and mobility and stratification of production to reduce grazing pressure in arid areas can be taken to buffer the effects of drought and improve water productivity.

11. For 171 million hectares (62%) of irrigated agricultural land in the world, which are under high water stress, improve water productivity by restoring and modernizing existing irrigation infrastructure and adopting innovative technologies.

12. Investment in non-consumptive uses of water and non-conventional sources of water such as water reuse and desalination are important strategies to make up for water scarcity, and these, innovations must be economically efficient, socially acceptable, environmentally sustainable, and appropriate to the context.

13. Policies and regulations play a central role in facilitating the implementation of technologies and innovations through financing, capacity building programs and the implementation of environmental flow requirements.

14. For efficient, sustainable and equitable water resources management, policy coherence and governance mechanisms across administrative scales and sectors are essential. Especially in agriculture, coherent and comprehensive strategies are needed in the areas of rainwater and irrigated farmland, livestock production systems, inland fisheries, aquaculture and forestry.


World Water Day https://www.worldwaterday.org/

The State of Food and Agriculture 2020 http://www.fao.org/documents/card/en/c/cb1447en

World Water Council – Celebration of World Water Day, DD- 365  March – 22-23, 2021 https://www.worldwaterforum.org/en 


Contributor: KANAMORI Norihito (Research Strategy Office)

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