Making use of traditional water management techniques along with modern irrigation technology can dramatically reduce the amount of fresh water used in agriculture. This would also ease the pressure on fresh water sources, leaving more for domestic and industrial uses while increasing crop yields at the same time.
Although 80 percent of agriculture (making up about 58 percent of the global food basket) is already rain fed, available rainwater can be harvested, stored and used much more efficiently. It is estimated that improved rainwater management techniques can multiply crop yields by a factor of 2 to 4 in parts of Africa and Asia. More efficient rainwater use can often be achieved by introducing or readopting traditional methods of water retention and rain harvesting that require low capital expenditures.
In areas where irrigation is needed, new technologies such as drip watering can reduce water consumption by 30 to 70 percent and improve yields by 30 to 200 percent for various crops. In addition, more efficient water management in agriculture including improved watershed management can considerably reduce soil degradation.
While educating famers about water management is vital, governments can also provide the conditions necessary for improving efficiency in water usage by effectively coordinating between the sectors competing for fresh water.