Polluted groundwater sources threaten food security, says report

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ROME, Italy, Nov. 28, 2011 – Increased pollution and withdrawal of groundwater sources could hamper efforts to increase food production by 70% to meet rising populations by 2050.

Furthermore, excessive build up of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous are impacting large inland water bodies, with many rivers not reaching their natural end points.

This is a stark warning sent out in the State of the World’s Land and Water Resources (SOLAW), a report from the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

The report cautioned: “Because of the dependence of many key food production systems on groundwater, declining aquifer levels and continued abstraction of non-renewable groundwater present a growing risk to local and global food production.”

SOLAW said that water scarcity has placed a number of key food production systems around the globe at risk. It said this would pose a profound challenge to the task of feeding a global population expected to grow by two billion in under 40 years’ time.

FAO said that no region is immune: systems at risk can be found around the globe, from the highlands of the Andes to the steppes of Central Asia, from Australia’s Murray-Darling river basin (see WWi story on Australian irrigation invention) to the central United States.

Jacques Diouf, director-general at the FAO, said: “These systems at risk may simply not be able to contribute as expected in meeting human demands by 2050. The consequences in terms of hunger and poverty are unacceptable. Remedial action needs to be taken now.”

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