Water is the most limiting factor for food production in many countries of the world. Nearly half of the “water-poor” world population is concentrated in the southern and eastern shores of the
Throughout history, farmers in the drylands have relied on a variety of water-saving techniques and of hydraulic engineering approaches to use the renewable water resources available to them. Examples include terracing for water harvesting and soil conservation in the mountains of
Since the Green Revolution of the 1960’s, water-starved countries have- paradoxically-adopted policies favoring intensive, irrigated agriculture in order to address demand for food and to encourage an export-oriented agriculture which was expected to be a major source of hard currency. “Dry” countries have endeavored to build more dams, sink more wells and construct water supply infrastructure, in order to address the supply side of water management. Today, the agriculture sector accounts for over 85% of total water consumption in many of these countries, including Lebanon, where irrigation is often practiced with low efficiency, sometimes below 50%.This means that half the water that is drawn from a well or a canal is actually used by the plant for growth. The rest of the water goes to waste. More over, water that is drawn from various sources for use in irrigated agriculture often goes to irrigate high-value, export crops that are not consumed by local people, while the poor, in rural or urban regions, lack access to clean water for drinking and domestic use. This situation is especially dramatic in
Most of the countries in the dry part of the world are today considered to have exhausted their water resources and to largely depend on trade to import water primarily in the form of food. This is the case of the Gulf countries. In
However, as the food crisis continues to unfold, food production is once again becoming a priority goal, and it is expected that farming will become a strategic economic activity. If
In the wake of the July 2006 war, I was in South Lebanon and a Spanish reporter interviewed me for Spanish TV about the war and its impact. Somehow, we got talking about water and the South and Israel's views on the water of South Lebanon, and he gave me the "if you waste it then you deserve to lose it" argument. I answered him: "Juan, you told me that you live in an old charming house in Madrid, right?" He said: "yes". I said: "you have a leaking faucet in your house, and you are not using a small toilet flush when you urinate. So I'm going to take your water away and give it to your neighbors and when you need to pee or wash your hands, you'll just have to use their toilet." I think he got the point. But I also think that living in an old charming house is no excuse for neglecting leaking faucets.