Half the expansion of irrigation this millenium has been unsustainable

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Half the expansion of irrigation across the world since the year 2000 has been unsustainable due to the water stress in the land chosen, according to international research. The team combined official statistics on irrigation to map changes in areas equipped for irrigation up to 2015, and they say there was an overall increase of 11% over that period. Looking at the level of water stress experienced in the regions that saw irrigation expansion, the researchers say about 50% of expansion has been unsustainable. In Australia, they say irrigation has expanded by 41%, and 57% of that expansion has been unsustainable. The researchers say while expanding irrigation is important to shore up food supplies as the climate becomes less predictable, we need to be careful about risking our long-term access to water.

Journal/conference: Nature Water

Link to research (DOI): 10.1038/s44221-024-00206-9

Organisation/s: University of Delaware, USA

Funder: M.K. was supported by Research Council of Finland funded projects
WATVUL (grant no. 317320) and TREFORM (grant no. 339834),
Research Council of Finland’s Flagship Programme under project
Digital Waters (grant no. 359248), and the European Research
Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and
innovation programme (SOS.aquaterra, grant agreement no. 819202).
S.S. received funding from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
(German Research Foundation; SFB 1502-1-2022, Projektnummer
450058266). K.F.D. and L.M. were supported by the United States
Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture
(grant no. 2022-67019-37180). K.F.D. was also supported by the
University of Delaware General University Research fund. W.X., T.A.
and Q.D. were supported by National Key R&D Program of China
(Grant no. 2023YFD2300301) and NSFC (72261147472, 72348003)

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