The Water Crisis at Home

Water scarcity is one of the most urgent, life-threatening problems facing humanity today. With a global population expected to grow to 9.6 billion by 2050, the demand on farms—which already consume 70 percent of the world’s freshwater—is growing far faster than it can be met. Experts predict that nearly half of the world will experience “high water stress” by 2030. It should come as no surprise that these same experts are calling for a major transformation of the agricultural sector on a global scale to mitigate the crisis.

Lake Shasta

The water levels of Lake Shasta, in California, have dropped dramatically

Photo credit: istock

Although the Rainforest Alliance works primarily in tropical regions where standing forests are in peril, we also work in several regions of high water stress, including Guatemala, Mexico, Kenya and Rwanda. For hundreds of thousands of farmers who have participated in our sustainability programs, climate change is already affecting growing seasons and crop yields. That’s why the water conservation measures we promote—from shade requirements on coffee farms and reforestation efforts to the creation of buffer zones to protect streams and rivers—are critical to a viable future.

Although people in Mexico, Guatemala and much of Africa have been suffering the effects of the global water crisis for some time, North America has until recently been relatively insulated from the destabilizing effects of prolonged drought. But today, as wildfires rage throughout the western US and into Canada and the Texas fishing industry withers away, we on this continent are finally beginning to experience high water stress—the result of unsound agricultural practices and climate change. The mega-drought in California, where more than half of the produce in the US is grown, threatens food supplies for the entire country.

The causes and effects of the particular crises in North America are complex, intertwined as they are with climate change, politics, agricultural policies and finance. Here, we offer some in-depth articles that can help you understand the underpinnings of the water crises that have begun to manifest here at home.

Ramon nut, a sustainable superfood - photo by Sergio Izquierdo

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