EghtesadOnline: Agriculture accounts for 83% of the water used in the arid Yazd Province, head of the provincial water company said.
“Water use in the agro sector is alarmingly inefficient as less than 40% is used properly while the rest (60%) is drained or lost due to evapotranspiration,” Mohammad Mahdi Javadianzadeh was quoted as saying by the Energy Ministry’s news portal.
Sustainable investment in agriculture should be a top priority, he said.
There are 19 plains in the region, of which 16 are in critical conditions due to excessive water extraction from the underground tables.
On average 700 million cubic meters of water enters annually underground aquifers in the region, whereas water extracted from groundwater sources in the desert central province every year is above 1 billion cubic meters, resulting in severe water deficits.
Groundwater overdraft, surpassing 3.2 bcm over the last 20 years, has increased dust storms and created sinkholes in the plains. In addition, it has raised salt content in the groundwater while land subsidence worsens.
“Shifting from outdoor agriculture to indoor farming is among the optimal solutions to help increase water use efficiency.”
Indoor farming is a method of growing crops or plants, usually on a large scale, entirely indoors. This method of farming often implements growing methods such as hydroponics and utilizes artificial light to provide plants with the nutrients and light levels required for growth.
When growing indoors, many farmers appreciate having more control over the environment than they do when they are using traditional farming methods.
Light amounts, nutrition levels plus moisture levels can be controlled by the farmer when growing crops indoors. A wide variety of plants can be grown indoors, but fruits, vegetables, and herbs are highly popular.
Moreover, accurate monitoring of water use (via smart meters) is an essential part of irrigation and helps reach optimal performance, saving water while enhancing yield, he said.
While agriculture attracts rural workers, generates income and increases food security, it also has become the most important element in freshwater exploitation creating serious concern among economic experts and conservationists.
Rapid expansion of water demand has led to acute imbalances, he said, adding that the increasing pressure on water resources demands urgent methods to enhance water use efficiency.
Water use efficiency has a significant role in addressing challenges farmers face when it comes to water use. While irrigation can increase yields of most crops by 100 to 400%, water resources remain of the ascending order.
“Enhancing efficiency demands effective action at all levels, from farmers to managers right up to decision and policy makers.”
The world’s population is expected to increase to over 10 billion by 2050, and whether urban or rural, it will need food and fiber to meet its basic needs.
Combined with increased consumption of calories and more complex foods, which accompanies income growth in the developing world, it is estimated that agricultural production will have to expand by approximately 70% by 2050.
However, future demand for water by all sectors will require as much as 25 to 40% of water to be re-allocated from lower to higher productivity and employment activities, particularly in water stressed regions like Iran.
In most cases, such reallocation is expected to come from agriculture due to its high share of water use. Currently, agriculture accounts (on average) for at least 70% of all freshwater withdrawals globally.