Chile: Measuring their water footprint would allow the agricultural sector to save 30% of their water

Chile: Measuring their water footprint would allow the agricultural sector to save 30% of their water

The Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) developed the study "Determination of the water footprint and strategies for water resource management," in order to measure the amount of water used in the cultivation of the 20 most important Chilean agricultural products, by economic impact: grapes, pisco grapes, avocado, olive, citrus, cherry, blueberry, canning peach, plum, kiwi, apple, beet, fresh and industrial tomatoes, among others.

The research identified the major components that contribute to the water footprint of the production of a kilo or litre of a product, and established that implementing adaptation measures designed to rationalize water use in the sector can help to reduce the consumption of this resource by up to 30%, said Carlos Ovalle, Coordinator of INIA's Sustainability and Environment National Programme as well as a member of the committee that created the study.

According to the expert, "the report determined the impact of agriculture on the country's water resources, depending on the geographical area where we calculated the water footprint of each product." He said that the idea is to use this data to focus efforts on how to use water efficiently, for example, "on high priced export crops, that are produced in valleys with limited resources."

The report also concluded that measuring the water footprint and implementing irrigation technology would enable the industry to save between 40% and 80% of the water used for these purposes.

Ovalle adds that the systems lagging the most in this regard are the surface irrigation systems used for growing fruit, especially in the North. Therefore, he says, it is vital to strengthen the research to increase the responsible use of this resource, maintaining the same quality of the agricultural products.

"The important thing is to maintain current productivity levels and to save a good percentage of the water that is being used and that is currently scarce. What we are aiming for is to produce the same amount of products without damaging their quality, "he says.

Source: Diario Financiero

Publication date: 6/28/2013

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