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Water, agriculture and environment

The word water is increasingly associated with the word crisis. There are now people speaking about of water as the new petrol, predicting a future of scarcity. In fact, the finite nature of our water resources and rising consumption are a crucial test that we must face, but personally I do not share the apocalyptic tone of some analysis. I am led to believe that they have a defect, the same of the analysis of many who have previously announced the imminent end of another natural resource, only to be contradicted by the facts. Their limit is that they fail to take into adequate account of the most powerful tool we have: human ingenuity. Not only it is possible and necessary to reduce waste, linked to the presence of obsolete equipment that determine the high losses in our water mains.
It is also possible and necessary to find more intelligent and efficient ways to use the natural resources, beginning with water. Moving towards more sustainable industrial and agricultural processes does not necessarily mean that we should take a step back in terms of development. Sustainability and development can be happily married through innovation. A striking example is represented by the current research, carried out in various countries around the world, to develop plants capable of maintaining high yields even under extreme conditions (like droughts), allowing savings on irrigation, to extend the arable land, to provide a safety net in front the uncertainties of climate change. It is no coincidence that Kofi Annan, when he still was the UN Secretary General called for a blue revolution in agriculture.
The amount of water available is not increasing, but the planet's inhabitants and also the per capita consumption is increasing. The growing tendency to seek a rich and varied diet will inevitably lead to an intensification of pressure on our natural resources. It is estimated that the water needed to produce one kg of beef, for example, is nearly four times higher than what it takes to get the same amount of chicken. For a glass of orange juice we consume five times more water than for a cup of tea.
As you know, in Italy about 50% of available freshwater is used for agriculture, compared with 25% industry and 15% for domestic use. If it is true that farming exerts considerable pressure on the water resources, it is also true that the irrigation authorities determine a positive impact on the environment.
They in fact have a very important function for the land, producing benefits for the hydro-geological asset and are a vital key for the environment. In addition to the primary water supply, irrigation channels constitute a system of water regulation and an integral part of cultural and social heritage of many regions, think about the Po and the Venetian plain, where the diffusion of the irrigation network features and marks the landscape. I feel that extremely today's initiative is interesting and useful: it aims to help develop a water policy designed to maximize efficiency, with significant economic and ecological benefits.

Source: Agricoltura italiana on line

by S. C.
06 march 2011, World News > Italy