Innovations Network: New study highlights the link between groundwater depletion and food security

Innovations Network: New study highlights the link between groundwater depletion and food security
20 June 2024

A recent study by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) underscores the global dependence on groundwater and its depletion, highlighting significant implications for food security. The study reveals that halting groundwater depletion, while crucial for sustainable water management, would lead to substantial reductions in food production, particularly of staple crops like rice and wheat. This scenario could increase international prices of rice by 7.4% and wheat by 6.7%, rendering food less affordable, particularly for vulnerable populations in low- and middle-income countries. Groundwater depletion, exacerbated by climate change, has prompted greater reliance on groundwater for agriculture as traditional rainfed farming becomes less viable, straining river basins globally, including critical agricultural regions in countries such as India, Pakistan, China, Iran, the US, and Egypt. The study underscores the urgent need for comprehensive strategies to conserve groundwater while ensuring food security. To mitigate the negative impacts of halting groundwater overdrafts, the study proposes targeted interventions, including investments in agricultural research and development to enhance crop yields under water-constrained conditions, potentially lowering global wheat prices by over 3%. Additionally, promoting conservation agriculture practices like mulching and terracing in both irrigated and rainfed areas can help conserve water and stabilize maize prices, which is predominantly rainfed. Ultimately, the study advocates for a transdisciplinary approach integrating regulatory, financial, technological, and awareness-building measures across water and food systems to achieve sustainable groundwater management while safeguarding global food security amidst climate uncertainties and increasing water scarcity.

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