Academic Publication

Water Resources Threshold and Implications for Food Security

Hong Yang
Peter Reichert
Karim C. Abbaspour
Alexander J. B. Zehnder
Swiss Federal Institute for Environmental Science and Technology
Publication Year:
  • SDG 1 - No Poverty
  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities

Cereal import has played a crucial role in compensating local water deficit. A quantitative account of water deficit and cereal import relations therefore is of significance for predicting future food import demand and formulating corresponding national and international policies. On the basis of data for countries in Asia and Africa, water resources threshold was estimated with respect to cereal import. Below the threshold, the demand for cereal import increases exponentially with decreasing water resources. There appeared to be a declining trend in the threshold, from 2000 m3/(capita year) in the early 1980s to 1500 m3/(capita year) by the end of the 1990s. Until recently, most countries below the threshold were oil-rich and thus were able to afford cereal import. However, the next 30 yr may see many poor and populous countries dropping below the threshold in association with their rapid population growth and the depletion of fossil groundwater. Water deficit-induced food insecurity and starvation could intensify because cereal import may not be affordable for these countries.


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