New tool tracks water usage in agriculture

There is a direct relationship between water and food security. In order to be sustainable, agriculture must adapt to the impacts of climate change and grow food with less water

By Deepanwita Gita Niyogi
Last Updated: Thursday 27 April 2017 | 11:02:03 AM

A tool now makes it possible to measure water efficiency in the agriculture sector. Developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the WaPOR open-access database will help farmers optimise irrigation in water-scarce countries.

Using satellite data, the tool analyses water utilisation in farming systems, generating evidence about how it can be most productively used.

Speaking about the programme, FAO expert Livia Peiser said, “The programme (WaPOR) aims at increasing water productivity in agriculture. It starts with monitoring it, but it will also identify suitable options for closing productivity gaps, and explore possibilities for yield increases and reduction of non-beneficial water consumption.” Right now, WaPOR covers Africa and the Near East, but according to Peiser there is a growing interest to expand it.

Besides industries, agriculture is a major water guzzler. In view of the global population rise, there will be a 60 per cent surge in demand for food by 2050. To achieve this, even wastewater is being considered a valuable resource for crop cultivation.

WaPOR uses remote sensing technologies to monitor water productivity in Africa and West Asia

There is a direct relationship between water and food security. In order to be sustainable, agriculture must adapt to the impacts of climate change and grow food with less water.

Monitoring water usage

WaPOR measures evapotranspiration, a key phase in the natural water cycle. It measures water consumption by a crop during a growing season, and when related to the biomass and harvestable crop yield, allows for calculating crop water productivity.

“The tool monitors how much water is being used in agriculture and then specifically in irrigated agriculture…how much water will be needed to produce food,” Jippe Hoogeveen, senior land and water officer with FAO, said.

For the time being, the database is only available at 250 metres resolution, which is often not enough for providing field level estimates, but it will grow during the course of 2017 to include spatially disaggregated information at 100 metres and 30 metres resolution.

Currently, the tool will provide useful information for farmers and water user associations with regard to water consumption and yield.

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  • I am the Google Earth Engine developer and I just wanted to clarify that the data used are not "provided" by Google but uploaded by FAO to Google EE and then used for the calculations using Google EE computation capabilities.

    Posted by: Fabio | one year ago | Reply