By 2050, feeding a planet of 9 billion people will require an estimated 50 percent increase in agricultural production and a 15 percent increase in water withdrawals. When blue water alone is considered, total water use is much less: 27 to 540 L/kg of carcass-weight beef produced in Australia (Peters et al., 2010). Although such arid and semiarid regions are the most vulnerable to water scarcity, the demand side of the equation can have a strong, if not stronger, influence. In contrast, few LCA approaches include gray water, most considering that it is already addressed in the LCA impact indicators for aquatic toxicity (related to pesticide and heavy-metal emissions) and potential eutrophication (related to nitrate and phosphate emissions, among others). Livestock water use is water associated with livestock watering, feedlots, dairy operations, and other on-farm needs. Soil erosion by water, wind and tillage affects both agriculture and the natural environment. Coping with Water Scarcity: Challenge of the 21st Century. Because one of the main roles in animal products is to provide protein, kilograms of protein may be a more relevant unit when several foods are compared. By one definition, human populations face water scarcity when annual renewable water supplies in a region fall below 1,000 m3/person, which currently occurs throughout most countries in Northern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula (United Nations Environment Programme, 2008). The amount of water that flows through an aquaculture farm represents the majority of water dependency and can be a management indicator for river-based farms, although it has little practical use for sea-based farms (Aubin and van der Werf, 2009). The hidden water resource use behind meat and dairy, Water footprints of nations: Water use by people as a function of their consumption pattern. Early-maturity varieties may be sown to synchronize maximal growth with freshwater availability, but their yields are less than those of normal varieties. Thus, a definition of water scarcity that emphasizes the important role of water demand is, “the point at which the aggregate impact of all users impinges on the supply or quality of water... to the extent that the demand by all sectors, including the environment, cannot be satisfied fully” (UN-Water/FAO, 2007). Pimentel et al. (2010) estimated weighted blue water use of milk solids as 108 and 14 L/kg (i.e., approximately 830 and 108 L/kg of milk, respectively). Canada is known for its water. Key areas of focus include the development of This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (, Red meat—an essential partner to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, About the American Society of Animal Science. Those pumps run on electricity, which runs on fossil fuels. Direct use of water for agriculture in Germany is almost negligible (just 0.3 km³ per year nationwide). Global water demand is expected to increase greatly in the future, by 50% between 1995 and 2025 (United Nations Environment Programme, 2008), especially in developing countries, not only because of larger human populations, but also because of overall increases in industrial production and human affluence, which lead to greater consumption of energy, consumer goods, and food, especially animal products. S. G. A few approaches use water-engineering models to provide farm-level estimates of water use. There are 330 million acres of land used for agricultural purposes in the United States that produce an abundance of food and other products (2). A third is whether water that returns to the same location (e.g., in urine) is considered to have been consumed. Search for other works by this author on: Pisciculture et environnement: Apports de l'analyse de cycle de vie. When less extreme cases are considered, between-country differences exist, for example, ranging from 11,000 L/kg of beef in Japan to 37,800 L/kg of beef in Mexico. Water cycle and people: Water for feeding humanity, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Extensive scientific reviews of methods for estimating virtual water use exist (e.g., Berger and Finkbeiner, 2010), so in this article, we focus on those that target water use of agricultural products (particularly livestock), describe the most recent ones, and highlight their most significant differences. , Herrero M., van de Steeg J., Peden D. Wiedemann A second difference is whether water use is reported as a volume of water or as an index of water-use impact (e.g., H2O equivalents). Irrigation of a sunflower crop in France (source: © 2007 iStockphoto.com/Donald Gruener). Consequently the current global water withdrawals for irrigation are estimated to be about 2000 to 2500 km 3 per year. Some breeds adapted to drought, such as goats and camels, consume less water because of better water recycling. , Cai X., Cline S. A. van Breugel 67 Wallace JS. , Williams S. R. O., Baud S., Fraval S., Marks N. Rosegrant Climate Change 2007: Working Group I: The Physical Science Basis. We are happy to help. Among existing studies, water use per kilogram of beef ranges from 27 to 200,000 L (Peters et al., 2010; Wiedemann et al., 2010). More than 1 billion people depend on livestock farming, and animal products are an essential component of human diets. Rough average of 150 billion gallons CH4globally per d… 4 Agriculture is also a major source of water pollution from nutrients, pesticides and other After all, we have an abundance of rivers, lakes, and even three oceans, and we’re home to the largest fresh water lakes in the world. Indeed, water stress, defined as annual water withdrawals exceeding 20% of the annual renewable water supply, has occurred in temperate-climate countries such as Belgium, Korea, and the United Kingdom (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2004). The effect of on-farm water management is sometimes calculated by comparing it with the effect of natural vegetation, for which evapotranspiration is estimated as a simple function of rainfall (Ridoutt et al., 2011). Deutsch et al. In addition, developed and high income countries tend to use more water for energy generation and industry, whilst developing and lower income countries tend to use more water for agriculture. Water intake can be 50% greater in tropical countries than in temperate countries, especially for chickens. Some blue water returns to the location where it was consumed; for example, a part of the water consumed by livestock (including water contained in feeds) returns to the farm in feces and urine; however, a minor part returns to groundwater by infiltration (Table 1). Globally, it is estimated that 60-75% of water humans used goes towards agriculture. The water footprint takes into account different types of water, including virtual water, but is limited to on-farm flows, whereas LCA is limited mainly to blue water but includes off-farm uses (e.g., “from cradle to farm gate”). Global Water Outlook to 2025: Averting an Impending Crisis, A Report. This may happen even in regions with high rainfall, where population density and economic activity are high. Tools such as the water footprint and LCA are available, but their interpretation by policy makers has to be refined. Agriculture: A $2.4 Trillion Industry Worth Protecting. Corn can be replaced by sorghum, which grows in the same area and produces more biomass in the absence of irrigation; consequently, sorghum has a greater green water footprint than corn (Hoekstra and Chapagain, 2007). Agriculture is an industry that uses a large amount of freshwater. Here we describe 3 methods of classification for water use: 1) “virtual water and water footprints (which include blue, green, and gray water use),” 2) assessments of blue water use only, and 3) assessments of stress-weighted water use. Irrigation increases human food security in many countries, but may deplete groundwater and, in extreme cases, lower water levels of inland seas and increase their salinity. Blue and green water are thus closely interwoven. International Organization for Standardization (ISO). All LCA approaches include water used for crop (i.e., feed and forage) production, with some minor differences in which upstream processes are included (some excluding water used in infrastructure or transportation). Globally, 70% of Freshwater is Used for Agriculture. M. M. Agriculture is an industry that uses a large amount of water. "Cow Farts Have 'Larger Greenhouse Gas Impact' Than Previously Thought; Methane Pushes Climate Change". For pork, the system that requires the most blue water in Brazil and Australia is grazing, whereas in India, it is industrial production. ISO 14044: Environmental management—Life cycle assessment—Principles and framework. Concepts have been defined in the last 2 decades to differentiate water in the environment depending on its location. Washington (DC): World Bank. Agriculture accounts for 40% of California’s water use, through irrigation of approximately nine million acres of farmland. Vegan households use less than a third of the water of the average Australian household. G. M. These indicators, oriented toward estimating total water use by-products, are useful for tallying international trade in virtual water and discussing the use of volumes of blue, green, and gray water in water resource management. (1997), who reported 200,000 L/kg of beef, did not specify the method used, but the calculation was based on extensive rangeland systems, which require a large area for animal production. Livestock farming plays a major role in many communities, especially for smallholders in developing countries. How can we continue growing food without letting nature go thirsty for clean water? L. The chart below shows the water withdrawal ratios by continent, where the agricultural part varies from more than 80 percent in Africa and Asia to just over 20 percent in Europe. Which Livestock Farming Practices Help Decrease Water Use? For the same methodology, results also depend on the boundaries of the systems; for example, the total water use for 1 kg of beef may or may not include the contribution of nursing cows. But this approach is sectorial and does not account for other criteria of livestock sustainability or land use for animal production. This is likely to decrease to 83.3% by 2025. In contrast, because beef meat is the only product of a beef herd, the calculation of total water use of 1 kg of beef includes the water use by both bulls and steers, but also that of nursing cows. Slaughtering just one animal can use up to 132 gallons of water. That matters because the water doesn’t just appear – it has to be pumped in and out of the slaughterhouse. The water footprint of a nation is the amount of water used to produce the goods and services consumed by the inhabitants of that nation. Decreasing evapotranspiration (i.e., green water loss) is related to a decrease in photosynthesis and thus in biomass production because transpiration is related to carbon dioxide uptake, with both exchanges occurring through plant stomata. In many drier countries, agricultural water use accounts for more than 90 data than referenced in the text. The remaining water, in animals and their products, leaves the farm. The history of agriculture began thousands of years ago. Agricultural water is used for irrigation, pesticide External and fertilizer applications External , crop cooling (for example, light irrigation), and frost control. The most efficient practice may be to decrease irrigation of feeds grown in areas where rainfall is too low to avoid freshwater depletion, at least during certain periods of the year (Figure 5). No evidence exists that the presence of livestock is related to the risk of water scarcity; for example, in France there is little overlap between regions with high livestock density and those with water-availability problems in summer, some of the latter being areas with irrigated crops (Figure 2). United Nations Environment Programme, 2008, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2004, International Organization for Standardization, 2006, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2009, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2006, http://www.inra.fr/l_institut/expertise/expertises_realisees/secheresse_et_agriculture_rapport_d_expertise, http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/contents.html, http://www.grida.no/publications/vg/water2/, http://www.fao.org/nr/water/docs/escarcity.pdf, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/, Receive exclusive offers and updates from Oxford Academic, Copyright © 2020 American Society of Animal Science. Aubin Water-mediated ecological consequences of intensification and expansion of livestock production. able water resources globally, this fraction is much higher—up to 80–90%—in many arid and semiarid river basins where water is scarce. , Doreau M., Huguenin J., Lazard J., Porphyre V., Soussana J. F., Toutain B. Chapagain (2011) estimated weighted blue water use as 61 L, of which 75% arose from on-farm forage irrigation. Because this article is devoted to the risks of water shortage, we thus examine only the effects of livestock on blue and green water. These differences are mainly due to characteristics of the production systems (i.e., an organic system without irrigation vs. a more intensive system with irrigation), and significant between-year differences were observed. Some of these employ characterization factors based on water-stress indices of the catchment from which blue water was taken, which results in virtual water use expressed in H2O equivalents (e.g., Ridoutt and Pfister, 2010), similar to the CO2 equivalents of the carbon footprint. Gray water, a theoretical estimate of the amount of water necessary to dilute pollutants, varies widely depending on the pollutant (e.g., nitrate, synthetic organic chemicals) and the thresholds selected for their concentrations. Large differences are observed for beef blue water use: 1,471 L/kg for industrial systems in India and 0 for grazing in India and China. (2010) noted that water flows did not substantially change in Australia from native pastoral systems to the current improved systems, so livestock farming did not influence water scarcity in this case. Third United Nations World Water Development Report. 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