The growing world population, an increasing food production and intensive land use result in a strain on the food security, not in the least in relation to water availability.
The relationship between food production and water management is increasingly becoming more important. This is not only of importance for Dutch agriculture but needs attention worldwide. The largest consumer of fresh water worldwide is still the agricultural sector; in the GCC this sector uses some 85% of all available fresh water. Currently rain fed agriculture accounts for the largest portion of food production. It is expected that in the future agriculture intensifies even further which causes an increase in the need for irrigated agriculture.
The concept of ‘more crop per drop’ is often used in relationship to the link between water and food, even by large agricultural organisations such as the FAO. More crop per drop expresses the ratio of the mass of a product to the amount of water that was consumed during the growth of that product. Water productivity can be increased either through reduction of water consumption or by increasing the production of the product. Water usage can be reduced through innovative and sustainable technologies such as drip or precision irrigation and monitoring systems, as well as through improved greenhouses and crop selection. Adequate water governance additionally gives an integrated water management approach that results in efficient water usage (see Governance in the Dutch water sector).
In addition, reuse of wastewater is a sustainable way to reach high levels of water use efficiency. Wastewater from both industries and domestic use can be used for irrigating agricultural land. After treatment wastewater can be suitable for irrigation, nutritional values in the water will not go to waste but are used as fertilizers for crops. The reuse of water provides a cheap alternative water source and the treatment process can generate energy on top of that. Not alone in irrigation wastewater can be applied; aquaculture systems are also suitable for reuse of water, and water and nutrient saving technologies such as the recirculation aquaculture systems. The Netherlands has worked on developing closed systems for food production. The so called Agroparks make use of the proximity of other producers and their knowledge, residuals and by products, water included.
In a project on Waste Water Reuse for Irrigation in Algeria, local universities and Dutch knowledge institutes work together to demonstrate the potential to safely valorise waste water treated and polished with membrane based filtration for irrigation purposes.