The amount of water employed

Agriculture consumes 70% of the water drawn in the whole world from rivers, lakes and groundwater; in particular, developing countries are accountable for consumption of 95% of the water overally destined to agriculture, especially since the application of irrigated agriculture techniques implemented mostly in China, India and Pakistan. Even if per capita water consumption has lowered since 1980 from 700 to 800 annual cubic metres, water use to cultivate lands has been growing by 100% from 1961 to 2001 and is expected to register an exponential growth in the coming years, also due to constant population growth, expansion of urban areas and growing industrialization in emerging countries. The area covered by irrigated land in Europe is also increasing resulting in depletion of water resources and deterioration of water quality thus provoking desalinization and soil degradation. Currently, about 30-40% of the availability of agricultural products on a global scale originates from 16% of the irrigated agricultural area and it is estimated that in the following years the contribution of irrigated agriculture to food production will tend to grow. Italy destines for irrigation purposes about 60% of the 56 billion cubic metres of fresh water consumed and ranks first in Europe both for water consumption per inhabitant and for the greatest agricultural irrigated area, which is equivalent to 4,5 million hectares. Irrigation is practised with different procedures according to geographical areas and climate zones, with varying degrees of sophistication and technology: irrigating is useful to stabilize the productivity of cultivations and, in tropical countries, to guarantee more crops in the same year as well as higher yields. Irrigation is important also in dry or semi-arid areas, which would otherwise be unsuitable to support some crops. Today, more than 1,2 billion people live in areas where water scarcity occurs and for 2025, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), more than 3 billion people will become familiar with water stress conditions. On one side, therefore, irrigation is a tool which is becoming increasingly relevant in terms of food availability, on the other side, it constitutes the first form of consumption of water resources on a global scale.

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