Agriculture and Food Production

Agriculture: the major sector of water consumption

Intensive abstraction for domestic, agricultural and industrial purposes has led to depletion of surface and groundwater bodies. Overexploitation of groundwater resources in particular, has led to seawater intrusion in coastal aquifers. Over the last 50 years, water demand for all sectors of activity together has doubled to reach 280 km3/ year in 2007.

Agriculture is the largest water consumer in the Mediterranean with an average of 64% of total water use (varying from 50% and to certain cases up to 90% in some countries), followed by industry (including the energy sector and the tourism industry) at 22% and the domestic sector with 14%.

Water use efficiency is far from satisfactory, especially in agriculture. There is an increase in water demand for irrigation in certain countries (e.g. Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Syria and Turkey). Water abstraction in agriculture accounts for 48% in the north region while in the south-eastern European (SEE) countries and North Africa it amounts at 82%. Based on experts’ estimations developing countries use twice the amount of water per irrigated hectare than the industrialised countries do, despite the fact that their crop yield is three times lower due to ineffective irrigation methods, inefficiencies, evaporation rates, etc. Furthermore, the discharge of domestic, industrial and agricultural wastewater has led to distressing deterioration of water quality.


(Photo: Vangelis Constantianos)