How Sustainable Water Use Can Boost Food Security Worldwide

From reducing ocean acidification to tapping Africa’s wealth of water resources, the latest FutureFood 2050 interview series focuses on new strategies for smart water management that will help increase the world’s food supply.

CHICAGO, June 10, 2015 – Amid growing public awareness that water is not an unlimited resource, scientists and policy makers alike are working to reduce the water footprint of food production and ensure a safe ocean habitat for future supplies of fish and seafood.

Less than 3 percent of the Earth’s water is fresh, and its distribution is far from even throughout the world. In fact, nine countries harbor 60 percent of the available fresh water, reports the World Business Council for Sustainable Development: Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Indonesia, Russia and the United States. As climate change and expanding populations put more stress on local water supplies, it will become even more crucial to maximize available water resources for agriculture, which accounts for 70 percent of all water use, according to the latest series of interviews from the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) FutureFood 2050 publishing initiative. FutureFood 2050 explores how increasingly sophisticated science and technology will help feed the world’s projected 9 billion-plus people in 2050.

“I think we are in a very early stage of the water scarcity debate. We still really need to do something because the water footprint is increasing,” says Water Footprint Network founder Arjen Hoekstra, who coined the term “water footprint” in 2002 as a way of describing and comparing how much water consumers use. “The fact that [food and beverage] companies are talking about it is positive. [But] in the end, you have to recognize that talking doesn’t change the world,” he adds.

This month FutureFood 2050 talked to sustainable water use leaders about a range of issues, including:

  • Janos Bogardi: Veteran water resources manager who says it will take new tactics to meet Africa’s projected needs for irrigating farmland
  • Arjen Hoekstra: Water Footprint Network founder who believes food and beverage companies could play a major role in helping reduce global water consumption
  • Ulf Riebesell: German marine biologist investigating how the unchecked pace of ocean acidification threatens to deplete future supplies of seafood and fish

FutureFood 2050 is a multi-year program highlighting the people and stories leading the efforts in finding solutions to a healthier, safer and better nourished planet to feed 9 billion-plus people by 2050. Through 2015, the program will release 75 interviews with the world’s most impactful leaders in food and science. The interviews with sustainable water usage leaders are the 15th installment of FutureFood’s interview series, following sustainability, women in food science, food waste, food security and nutrition in Africa, aquaculture, futurists on food, innovative agriculture Parts 1 and 2, kitchens of the future, obesity, alternative proteins, food safety, climate change, and nutrition innovation.

Early next year, FutureFood 2050 will also debut a documentary film exploring how the science of food will contribute solutions to feeding the world. Here’s a behind-the-scenes interview with the film’s director.

For more information, please visit FutureFood2050.com to subscribe to monthly updates, learn more about the project and read the latest news on food science.

About IFT
Founded in 1939, the Institute of Food Technologists is committed to advancing the science of food. Our non-profit scientific society—more than 17,000 members from more than 95 countries—brings together food scientists, technologists and related professionals from academia, government and industry. For more information, please visit ift.org.

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