Water Use & Irrigation

Posted by Liz on June 4, 2015 in Interest |

I am watching each day more and more posts about California and how people are tearing up their landscaping and farmers are plowing crops under and wondering, why do they no change the style of irrigation they are using. And why are not the news services reporting these often easy and water saving changes? And why do the high water use areas not incorporate some of the methods used in the Middle East and other arid areas. I realize they are more expensive, but it beats draining the aquifers dry (think sink holes) and taking water from neighboring states through expensive and environmentally questionable pipelines.

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Below is an interesting bit from a UK based site. 1 kilogram (kg or kilo) = 2.2 lbs, 1 litre (l, liter) = 0.26 gallons (gal)

Water facts and figures

Water use

Did you know that the world uses:

  • 70 percent freshwater for irrigation
  • 22 percent freshwater for industry
  • 8 percent freshwater for domestic use

Did you know that by 2025, water withdrawals are predicted to increase by:

  • 50 percent in developing countries
  • 18 percent in developed countries

Did you know that by 2025:

  • 1800 million people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity
  • two-thirds of the world population could be under stress conditions caused by water scarcity

Did you know that:

  • the world’s six billion people are using 54 percent of all accessible freshwater contained in rivers, lakes and underground aquifers
  • the volume of freshwater resources is around 35 million km3, or about 2.5 percent of the total volume which is 1.4 billion km3
  • about 24 million km3 or 70 percent of freshwater resources is in the form of ice and permanent snow cover in mountainous regions, the Antarctic and Arctic regions

Drinking water and sanitation

Did you know that:

  • the UN suggests that we need 20-50 litres of safe freshwater a day for drinking, cooking and cleaning
  • more than one in six people worldwide – 894 million – don’t have access to 20-50 litres of safe freshwater a day
  • the daily drinking water requirement per person is 2-4 litres, but it takes 2000 to 5000 litres of water to produce one person’s daily food
  • 2.5 billion people, including almost one billion children, live without basic sanitation.
  • every 20 seconds, a child dies as a result of poor sanitation. That’s 1.5 million preventable deaths each year
  • globally, diarrhoea is the leading cause of illness and death, and 88 per cent of diarrhoeal deaths are due to a lack of access to sanitation facilities, together with inadequate availability of water for hygiene and unsafe drinking water.

Water, agriculture and food security

Did you know that:

  • it takes 1000-3000 litres of water to produce one kilo of rice
  • it takes 13000 to 15000 litres of water to produce one kilo of grain-fed beef
  • 277 million hectares, about 20 percent of all cropland is under irrigation
  • rainfed agriculture is practiced on 80 percent of the arable land
  • irrigation multiplies yields of most crops by 2 to 5 times
  • irrigated agriculture currently contributes to 40 percent of the world’s food production and the remaining 60 percent comes from rainfed systems
  • over the period to 2050 world’s water will have to support the agricultural systems that will feed and create livelihoods for an additional 2.7 billion people
  • rapidly growing demand for meat and milk in urban areas of developing countries will place substantial new demands on agricultural water resources, especially for feed production.

Water pollution, environmental degradation and disasters

Did you know that:

  • every day, 2 million tons of human waste are disposed of in water courses
  • in developing countries, 70 percent of industrial wastes are dumped into waters where they pollute the usable water supply
  • since 1900 we’ve lost half of the world’s wetlands
  • between 1991 and 2000 over 665,000 people died in 2,557 natural disasters of which 90 percent were water-related events.

Water footprints

Did you know that we need:

  • 13 litres of water of a tomato
  • 25 litres of water for a potato
  • 35 litres of water of a cup of tea
  • 70 litres of water for an apple
  • 75 litres of water for a glass of beer
  • 120 litres of water for a glass of wine
  • 140 litres of water for a cup of coffee
  • 170 litres of water of a glass of orange juice
  • 184 litres of water for a bag of potato crisps
  • 200 litres of water for a glass of milk
  • 2400 litres of water for a hamburger
  • 16000 litres of water is needed to produce one kilogram of beef


  1. Aquastat
  2. FAO
  3. Joint Monitoring Programme on Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP)
  4. United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF)
  5. United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
  6. UN Water
  7. Water footprint
  8. World Health Organization (WHO)
  9. Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC)

 Types of Irrigation

Irrigation water can come from groundwater (extracted from springs or by using wells), from surface water (withdrawn from rivers, lakes or reservoirs) or from non-conventional sources like treated wastewater, desalinated water or drainage water.


Water Sources


Water Conservation



Facts & Statistics

  • Approximately 5 to 10 percent of American homes have water leaks that drip away 90 gallons a day or more! Many of these leaks reside in old fixtures, such as leaky toilets and faucets. In fact, water lost by these leaky residences could be reduced by more than 30,000 gallons if new, efficient fixtures were installed. If the 5 percent of American homes that leak the most corrected those leaks—it could save more than 177 billion gallons of water annually!
  • Using WaterSense labeled faucets or faucet accessories could reduce a household’s faucet water use by more than 500 gallons annually—that’s enough water to do 14 loads of laundry.
  • WaterSense labeled faucets and faucet accessories can reduce excessive flow volumes by more than 30 percent without sacrificing performance.
  • If one in every 10 homes in the United States were to install WaterSense labeled faucets or faucet accessories in their bathrooms, it could save 6 billion gallons of water, and more than $50 million in the energy costs to supply, heat, and treat that water.
  • If all inefficient toilets in U.S. homes were converted to WaterSense labeled models, we could save more than 640 billion gallons of water per year—the equivalent to 15 days of flow over Niagara Falls.
  • If homeowners with irrigation systems use a certified irrigation professional to perform regular maintenance, they can reduce irrigation water use by 15 percent* or nearly 8,800 gallons of water annually. That’s the equal to the amount of water used to take 500 showers.


*the people in California have been asked to reduce their water use by 20%. Here is more than half of it in one simple step. By following the other steps in this one article alone would result in water conservation in excess of their 20% requirement. The only shortfall is when the next drought comes and they are asked to reduce again when they already use less than their local average.

Irrigation. (2015, May 29). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 22:44, June 4, 2015, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Irrigation&oldid=664517593












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