In large parts of the world agriculture without irrigation is impossible. Irrigation now claims close to 70 percent of all freshwater appropriated for human use.

The challenge

A secure supply of water is essential for the viability of agriculture and therefore the challenge is to make sure that it is managed correctly. Today, almost 40% of the global harvest comes from the ~20% of the world’s cropland that is irrigated. Clearly, without irrigation the world food supply would be considerably lower. But irrigation can have negative impacts such as overconsumption of water leading to water shortages for other sectors, over-exploitation of groundwater, salinity stress and the social and environmental issues related to dams for storage.

The approach

FutureWater investigates how sustainable irrigated agriculture can be implemented or improved by assessing under which conditions positive effects outweigh possible negative consequences. Using simulation models such as SWAP (Soil Water Atmosphere Plant), sometimes linked with satellite observations, many irrigation questions related to imbalances between supply and demand can be answered, both on the plot scale as for irrigation districts.

Example projects: