How Much Water Is Used For Agriculture Each Year

Agriculture uses around 70% of the global freshwater supply annually, making it the largest consumer of this precious resource. That is why it is so important to understand how much water is used for various agricultural activities. Recent estimates show that around 2160 cubic km of water is used worldwide for irrigation of distributed agricultural land.

The amount of water used in agriculture varies by location, season, crop type and soil conditions. For example, countries with longer growing periods tend to use more water, as do countries with higher populations, as implemented water conservation and harvest practices are not as effective. Lowland areas also use much more water for irrigation than upland areas as the natural fertility of the land is lower.

In order to understand the current use of water for agriculture, it is important to look at the available data. Globally, about 5,000 cubic km are used for irrigation of distributed agricultural land, representing around 20 percent of the total water consumed in agriculture. The rest of the water is used for livestock, fish farming and other agricultural activities.

In terms of individual countries, the largest agricultural water users are India, China and the United States. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, India, with its huge population, is the world’s largest user of water for agriculture, accounting for over 28 percent of the global total. China is the second largest user, with 25 percent of global agricultural water use. The United States has the third largest share, with 12 percent of global agricultural water use.

With such heavy use of water in agriculture, it is essential to implement efficient water conservation methods. This includes reducing water consumption in farming activities, such as through water-saving irrigation system, as well as improving water distribution and storage systems in agriculture. Implementing these methods can help reduce water wastage, improve crop yields and conserve this precious natural resource.

How Can Water Saving Irrigation System Help?

Water saving irrigation systems are designed to optimize the use of water for agricultural activities. This is achieved by creating a balance between the amount of water supplied to the crop and the amount that is lost to evaporation or runoff. The systems deliver water at the right amount, ensuring that only the necessary amount is used and the yield is maximized. This helps to conserve water, reduce fertilizers and pesticides and ultimately increase crop yields, making it a crucial part of improving agricultural water efficiency.

In addition, efficient water saving irrigation systems can also help reduce energy usage in agricultural activities. Examples of energy efficient technology include subsurface drip irrigation, which reduces energy use by using pressurized pipes beneath the ground to deliver water directly to water-needy crops. This technology helps to reduce energy costs, reduce labor costs and improve crop quality.

In addition, other methods of reducing water use in agriculture include terracing, dual cropping, mulching, terracing and no-till farming. Terrace farming helps to minimize soil erosion, dual cropping allows two different crops to be grown in the same field, and mulching helps to keep soils moist. No-till farming helps to reduce the need for plowing, which can help reduce soil erosion and conserve resources. All of these methods help to conserve water in agriculture.

Rainwater Harvesting for Agriculture

Rainwater harvesting is another way to help conserve water in agriculture. This method involves storing or collecting runoff from rainfall or snowmelt and redirecting it to farm fields or other irrigation sources. By leveraging the natural water cycle, farmers can effectively reduce their water use and increase yields. Furthermore, rainwater harvesting can also help to reduce soil erosion, as runoff forces soil particles off the land.

In regions where access to water is limited, rainwater harvesting can be a viable solution for farmers looking to achieve more efficient water use. There are a number of potential benefits associated with rainwater harvesting for agriculture, such as reduced need for water pumping, increased soil fertility and improved crop yields. Furthermore, this method of water conservation can help to reduce the use of fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals which can be harmful to the environment.

In addition to rainwater harvesting, farmers can also use other efficient water management techniques such as crop rotation, soil conservation practices and water filtration technologies. By using these methods in combination, farmers can substantially reduce the amount of water they need to use for irrigation each year and preserve this precious resource.

Water Conservation Technologies

In addition to leveraging rainwater harvesting and efficient water management techniques, farmers can also use a variety of water conservation technologies to reduce their water use. The most common technologies used for agriculture are soil moisture monitoring, irrigation scheduling and water purification systems.

Soil moisture monitoring systems, such as sensors and sprinklers, can detect when soil moisture levels are too low, allowing farmers to irrigate crops in a more efficient manner and reduce water waste. Irrigation scheduling, which involves regulating when and how much water is applied to crops, helps to reduce the amount of water used in agricultural activities while still maximizing crop yields. Finally, water purification systems, such as reverse osmosis and sedimentation, can reduce the amount of contaminants that are present in irrigation water which can be damaging to crops and soil health.

All of these technologies, when used in combination, can help farmers reduce water usage, conserve this precious resource and improve agricultural productivity.


It is clear that agriculture uses a considerable amount of water, making it an important part of the global water crisis. As such, it is essential that farmers, governments, and other stakeholders work together to implement efficient and effective water conservation practices. By leveraging water saving irrigation systems, rainwater harvesting, water conservation technologies and other water management techniques, agricultural water use can be greatly reduced and this precious resource can be conserved for the future.

Eduardo Villanueva is an expert on agricultural sciences, with decades of experience in the field. With a passion for teaching others, Eduardo has written extensively about topics related to sustainable agriculture and food security. His work aims to empower rural farmers and promote responsible farming practices that help preserve the environment for future generations. A dedicated family man, Eduardo lives in central Mexico with his wife and children. He is always looking for ways to connect people and knowledge to create positive changes in their local communities.

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