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How much water is used for irrigation?

11 Sep 2018

Watering crops
Watering crops. Copyright:
Wikimedia Commons

Feeding a growing global population is a major concern, but efforts to grow more food will place an added burden on precious supplies of freshwater. New research shows how measurements of soil moisture from space could be used to understand how much water is used for agriculture and potentially help farmers manage consumption.

It has been estimated that irrigation already consumes roughly 70% of the world's freshwater – possibly the biggest way humans interrupt the water cycle.

An increasing demand for food along with climate change will undoubtedly push this consumption rate even higher.

From the vantage of space, satellites could offer a solution to providing this information globally.

A paper published recently explores a new approach for quantifying irrigation by using soil-moisture observations from satellites such as ESA's Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) mission.

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