• 07/13/2023

The Role of Water in the Agriculture

The Role of Water in the Agriculture

The Role of Water in the Agriculture

The Role of Water in the Agriculture 1024 517 Waterwise Innovations
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Water is the lifeblood of agriculture, a critical input for the production of nearly everything we eat. From the irrigation of crops to the raising of livestock, water plays a central role in agricultural activities. Its availability and management have profound implications for the agricultural economy, influencing crop yields, operational costs, and ultimately, the price and availability of food. This article explores the role of water in the agricultural economy, shedding light on its uses, the challenges posed by water scarcity, and the strategies being adopted to ensure sustainable water use in agriculture.

Water in Agriculture: A Critical Resource

Agriculture is the largest consumer of freshwater resources worldwide, using an estimated 70% of all freshwater.

Water is used in agriculture in several ways. The most significant use is for irrigation, which enhances crop yields and allows for the cultivation of crops in regions with insufficient rainfall. Water is also used for pesticide and fertilizer applications, crop cooling, and frost control. In livestock farming, water is essential for drinking, sanitation, and the production of feed crops.


The most significant use of water in agriculture is for irrigation.

Irrigation involves the artificial application of water to soil or land to assist in the growth of crops. By providing a reliable source of water, irrigation allows crops to flourish even in regions with inadequate rainfall. It enhances crop yields by ensuring that crops receive the optimal amount of water they need to grow. This is particularly important in arid and semi-arid regions where rainfall is scarce or unpredictable.

Pesticide and Fertilizer Applications

Water is also used in the application of pesticides and fertilizers.

Pesticides are substances used to control pests that can damage crops, while fertilizers are used to enrich the soil with nutrients that promote plant growth. Both pesticides and fertilizers are typically mixed with water and applied to crops in a liquid form. The water serves as a carrier, helping to distribute these substances evenly across the crops.

Crop Cooling and Frost Control

In addition to irrigation and the application of pesticides and fertilizers, water is used in agriculture for crop cooling and frost control.

Crop cooling involves the use of water to lower the temperature of crops during hot weather, preventing heat stress and reducing evaporation from the soil. Frost control, on the other hand, involves the application of water to crops to protect them from frost damage. When water freezes, it releases heat, which can help to keep the temperature of the crops above freezing point.

Livestock Farming

In livestock farming, water is essential for a variety of purposes.

Animals need water for drinking, and a sufficient supply of clean drinking water is crucial for their health and productivity. Water is also used for sanitation purposes in livestock farming, such as cleaning barns and other facilities. Furthermore, water plays a key role in the production of feed crops for livestock.

The Economic Value of Water in Agriculture

The economic value of water in agriculture is immense.

Water availability directly influences the productivity of farms, with implications for crop yields and farm incomes. In regions with ample water availability, farmers can cultivate a wider variety of crops, including high-value crops that require more water. In contrast, in regions with limited water availability, farmers may be restricted to growing drought-tolerant crops that yield less income.

Moreover, the cost of water can significantly impact the profitability of farms. In areas where water is scarce or expensive, the cost of irrigation can be a major operational expense. On the other hand, in areas where water is abundant and cheap, irrigation costs can be much lower.

Water Scarcity and the Agricultural Economy

Water scarcity poses significant challenges for the agricultural economy.

As water resources become increasingly strained due to factors like climate change, population growth, and pollution, the availability of water for agricultural activities is becoming more uncertain. This uncertainty can lead to fluctuations in crop yields and farm incomes, affecting the stability of the agricultural economy.

Water scarcity can also drive changes in agricultural practices. For instance, it can encourage the adoption of water-efficient irrigation techniques, the cultivation of drought-tolerant crop varieties, and the implementation of water management strategies. While these adaptations can entail costs, they can also lead to benefits in terms of improved water efficiency and sustainability.

Sustainable Water Management in Agriculture

Sustainable water management is becoming increasingly important in the agricultural sector.

This involves practices that enhance water efficiency, reduce water pollution, and ensure the sustainable use of water resources. Examples include precision irrigation techniques that apply water more efficiently, the use of organic farming practices that reduce water pollution, and the implementation of water conservation measures.

Sustainable water management in agriculture is a critical aspect of ensuring the long-term viability of agricultural practices while preserving water resources for future generations. It involves implementing strategies and practices that aim to use water more efficiently, reduce water pollution, and maintain the health of aquatic ecosystems.

Water-Efficient Irrigation

One of the key aspects of sustainable water management in agriculture is the use of water-efficient irrigation techniques.

These techniques aim to apply water to crops in a way that minimizes waste and maximizes efficiency. Examples include drip irrigation, which delivers water directly to the root zone of plants, and precision irrigation, which uses technology to apply water based on the specific needs of each plant. These techniques can significantly reduce the amount of water used in irrigation, helping to conserve water resources.

Reducing Water Pollution

Sustainable water management also involves reducing water pollution from agricultural activities.

This can be achieved through practices such as integrated pest management, which aims to minimize the use of chemical pesticides, and organic farming, which avoids the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides that can contaminate water. Additionally, practices such as cover cropping and crop rotation can improve soil health and reduce runoff, helping to prevent soil and fertilizer from washing into water bodies.

Conserving Aquatic Ecosystems

Maintaining the health of aquatic ecosystems is another important aspect of sustainable water management.

This involves practices such as maintaining buffer zones around water bodies to protect them from agricultural runoff, and managing irrigation to prevent waterlogging and salinization of soils, which can harm aquatic life. It also involves managing water use to ensure that sufficient water remains in rivers and lakes to support fish and other aquatic species.

Adapting to Climate Change

Climate change is expected to increase the variability of rainfall and exacerbate water scarcity in many regions.

Sustainable water management involves adapting to these changes, for example by developing drought-tolerant crop varieties, improving the storage of rainwater, and using weather forecasts to plan irrigation more effectively.


Water plays a vital role in the agricultural economy, underpinning a wide range of activities that are essential for food production. As water resources become increasingly scarce, the management of water in agriculture will be critical for ensuring the sustainability and resilience of the agricultural economy. This will require a holistic approach that balances the need for agricultural productivity with the need for water conservation and sustainability.