Part 2 - Mapping hotspots

Water and food production

Global population is now 7 billion people and will continue to grow in future decades. According to a business-as-usual scenario, global population will grow to circa 9 billion people by 2050. This growth will be particularly strong in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Population growth is projected to increase the use of and pressure on natural resources

Population (in millions) and population growth (%) per country, 2010 - 2050

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Source: PBL

The rapidly growing population strongly increases the pressure on local natural resources, local environmental conditions, and food availability.

Water stress by 2050

Between now and 2050, global water consumption is expected to increase by 25%, due to the growing number of households, the growth in industrial production, and agricultural expansion and intensification.

Growing water demand and —in some regions— declining precipitation will increase the pressure on the available water resources, resulting in high levels of water stress in many regions. This may limit agricultural production.

Largest part water consumption is irrigation

2010 versus 2050 in km3

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Source: Utrecht University, PBL

Agriculture uses the most water, by far, with a water use of more than 80%. In particular, in South and East Asia, agricultural production heavily depends on irrigation.

Climate change, which brings higher average temperatures and changing precipitation patterns, combined with increasing competition for water resources, may result in substantial increases in the number of people living under severe water stress.

Low crop yields require water management

Twenty percent of the global agricultural area is irrigated, which represents 40% of the total in agricultural production. The remaining area (80%) fully depends on precipitation.

Gap in crop yields rainfed agriculture, 2010 - 2050

This world map shows the projected gap in crop yields for rainfed agriculture by 2050. Water shortages cause large yield gaps in many areas around the world.
This world map shows the projected gap in crop yields for rainfed agriculture by 2050. Water shortages cause large yield gaps in many areas around the world.

Source: Wageningen University & Research

Water shortages cause large yield gaps in many areas around the world. Improved water management may increase crop yields in rainfed agriculture, by 40% to over 60%.

Gap in crop yields irrigated agriculture, 2010 - 2050

This world map shows the projected gap in crop yields for irrigated agriculture by 2050. Yield gaps are relatively large in particular in Asia, the Mediterranean, and the USA.
This world map shows the projected gap in crop yields for irrigated agriculture by 2050. Yield gaps are relatively large in particular in Asia, the Mediterranean, and the USA.

Source: Wageningen University & Research

Improved water management may also increase crop yields in irrigated agriculture.

Reconciling agriculture and nature

In large parts of the world, improved water management, based on currently known techniques for water efficiency and water conservation, could decrease local yield gaps, while compensating for climate change impacts and retaining at least 30% of the water flows for nature.

Improved water management may reconcile ecologically required water flows for ecosystems and water quantities required for crop production.

Change in crop production under improved water management, allowing ecologically required river flows

This world map shows the change in crop production that can be realized under improved water management whilst ecologically required river flows are not jeopardized. In most regions of the world crop production can be increased. An exception are the Himalayan region and areas north of it.

Source: Jägermeyr et al., 2017

This map shows that in most regions of the world, crop production can be increased under improved water management, allowing ecologically required river flows.

However, in the Himalayan region and areas north of it, this win-win strategy seems not possible and ecological flow requirements will not be met.

Competition with increase in energy crop production

Under the Business-as-usual scenario, global production of energy crops between 2010 and 2050 is projected to increase from 0.1 million tonnes dry matter, per year, to 2 million tonnes, supplying about 9% of the global energy production.

Land use is projected to change. In all regions, more land will be used for growing food and energy crops, at the expense of forest and other nature areas. The production of energy crops could be competing with other types of land use, such as food production and nature.

Energy crops will significantly contribute to agricultural production by 2050

Million tonnes dry matter, per year

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Source: PBL

The major regions for energy crop production under the Business-as-usual scenario are Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, together encompassing around three quarters of total energy crop production. The competing pressures on land and water are most prominent in these regions.