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To save water, consume less meat?

27 September 2004

According to an international water expert, a person's diet, not how long they spend in the shower, is the main determining factor in how much water they consume.

Professor Frank Rijsberman, director-general of the International Water Management Institute, based in Sri Lanka is today addressing the 4th International Crop Science Congress in Brisbane. The Congress has brought together over 1000 delegates from 65 countries to focus on the key issues for cropping systems that provide food, feed and fibre for the world.

"On average it takes roughly 70 times more water to grow food for people than the amount people use for domestic purposes," Professor Rijsberman says.

A kilogram of beef may use more than 13 times the amount of water needed to produce the same weight of cereal. So the diet of a typical meat-eater comes courtesy of about 5400 litres of water a day, double that of a vegetarian getting the same nutritional value.

Professor Rijsberman says up to two-thirds of the world will face water scarcity in the coming decades, particularly in low-rainfall, high-population areas such as Africa and the Middle East.

Professor Rijsberman says it does not automatically follow that water is scarce because 1.2 billion people do not have access to safe and affordable supplies. In many parts of the world, water is scarce because of poor delivery, often due to a lack of money.

The solution, Professor Rijsberman says, is "producing more food while using less water".

The institute estimates the world will need 29 per cent more irrigated land by 2025 to feed a rapidly increasing population. Improved water productivity could limit the required increase in agriculture to 17 per cent.

The Congress was addressed by a CSIRO water expert, Dr John Passioura on the issue of water productivity.

4ICSC would like to thank all its supporters including the following major sponsors:
AusAID, CSIRO, Pioneer Hi-Bred International and QDPI

More information:
Cathy Reade, Media Manager, 4th International Crop Science Congress
Mobile: 0413 575 934

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