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Aqueduct Food

A New Tool for Mapping Food and Water Security

Overview

Aqueduct Food aims to help decision makers map and proactively manage water‐related risks to food

production. Aqueduct Food combines global data on water risks and agriculture to illustrate water‐related threats to and opportunities for food security, and how these dynamics may develop over time. WRI’s Aqueduct water risk maps are cross‐referenced with data from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) showing spatially explicit global crop area along with data on food production, demand, trade, prices, and hunger for every country in the world. By providing users with a better understanding of how population growth and climate change will affect global food systems, Aqueduct Food aims to enable proactive management of water related risks to food security.

The Beta version of this tool was released on November 25, 2019. Aqueduct Food’s release will serve to inform decision-making, as well as to solicit further user feedback and testing to optimize the next iteration of the tool.

Why Aqueduct Food?

Seventy percent of global water withdrawals are used for agriculture. However, challenges to supplying the water needed to grow the world’s food are emerging as the climate changes, the population grows, and demand for already scarce water resources increases. By 2050, the world will need 56 percent more calories than are grown today, to feed a planet of 8.9 billion people. From crises in Syria to Somalia, it’s clear the devastation drought-driven losses in agricultural productivity can cause to lives and livelihoods.  More than ever before, stakeholders from water and agricultural sectors need to consider the impacts of these two vital resources on each other, and plan proactively for the future.

Uses

Aqueduct Food was designed with a variety of potential users in mind. A few example users and uses are

described below:

  • Ministries of water and agriculture: Government officials within relevant ministries can use Aqueduct Food to see how changes in climate and demand for water could affect their food‐producing areas.
  • Multinational agricultural corporations: Corporations that source agricultural products can use Aqueduct Food to help inform where they could consider working with producers on water‐efficient crop management, or from where they might sustainably source new ingredients. The information provided by the tool can help companies make business‐smart, water‐smart, and socially smart procurement decisions.
  • International development organizations: Development banks and international aid agencies can use  Aqueduct Food to help identify or confirm high priority areas with water risks to food security to which they may consider allocating resources.

Data

Aqueduct Food combines water data from WRI Aqueduct with food data from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

WRI Aqueduct IFPRI
Water stress Area, yield, production by crop
Groundwater table decline Net trade by crop
Interannual variability Food demand by crop
Seasonal variability World price by crop
Drought risk Kilocalories and risk of hunger by country

Aqueduct water risk indicators (WRI)

The Aqueduct water risk indicators were developed using hydrological modeling of long-term trends. A list and description of each water risk indicator can be found in the table below. The table also notes which indicators are most applicable to irrigated or rainfed agriculture, and for which indicators future projections are available.

Indicator Description Irrigated? Rainfed? Future Projections?
Water stress Water stress measures the ratio of total water withdrawals to available renewable surface and groundwater supplies. Water withdrawals include domestic, industrial, irrigation, and livestock consumptive and nonconsumptive uses. Available renewable water supplies include the impact of upstream consumptive water users and large dams on downstream water availability. Higher values indicate more competition among users.  
Seasonal variability Seasonal variability measures the average within-year variability of available water supply, including both renewable surface and groundwater supplies. Higher values indicate wider variations of available supply within a year.
Interannual variability Interannual variability measures the average between-year variability of available water supply, including both renewable surface and groundwater supplies. Higher values indicate wider variations in available supply from year to year.  
Drought risk Drought risk measures where droughts are likely to occur, the population and assets exposed, and the vulnerability of the population and assets to adverse effects. Higher values indicate higher risk of drought.  
Groundwater table decline Groundwater table decline measures the average decline of the groundwater table as the average change for the period of study (1990–2014). The result is expressed in centimeters per year (cm/yr). Higher values indicate higher levels of unsustainable groundwater withdrawals.    
Coastal Eutrophication Potential Coastal eutrophication potential (CEP) measures the potential for riverine loadings of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and silica (Si) to stimulate harmful algal blooms in coastal waters. The CEP indicator is a useful metric to map where anthropogenic activities produce enough point-source and nonpoint-source pollution to potentially degrade the environment. When N and P are discharged in excess over Si with respect to diatoms, a major type of algae, undesirable algal species often develop. The stimulation of algae leading to large blooms may in turn result in eutrophication and hypoxia (excessive biological growth and decomposition that reduces oxygen available to other organisms). It is therefore possible to assess the potential for coastal eutrophication from a river’s N, P, and Si loading. Higher values indicate higher levels of excess nutrients with respect to silica, creating more favorable conditions for harmful algal growth and eutrophication in coastal waters downstream.  

Source: Aqueduct 2019

MapSPAM (IFPRI)

The Spatial Production Allocation Model (MapSPAM) takes a cross-entropy approach to estimate global crop distribution at a 10x10 km resolution. MapSPAM provides Aqueduct Food’s geospatially explicit crop layers. Source: http://mapspam.info/

IMPACT Model (IFPRI)

The International Model for Policy Analysis of Agricultural Commodities and Trade (IMPACT) is a network of linked economic, water, and crop models. Its core is a partial equilibrium economic model which simulates agricultural markets. This economic model is linked to water and crop models to analyze changing environmental, biophysical, and socioeconomic trends. Aqueduct Food’s country-scale datasets on food production, food demand, crop net trade, share of population at risk of hunger, and kilocalories per person are provided by IMPACT. Source: https://www.ifpri.org/program/impact-model

Limitations

Aqueduct Food is the first-of-its kind global water and food security analyzer. This initial, limited iteration of the tool is meant to start a conversation. Based on user feedback, we anticipate continuing to build out the tool’s datasets and functionality. The following limitations should be considered before using Aqueduct Food.

  • Isolated water and food datasets: While we are combining Aqueduct’s water risk indicators and IFPRI’s agricultural data in the same tool, these datasets are not linked to one another. The datasets were generated using different inputs and modeling approaches and thus do not impact each other.
  • Variations and gaps in agriculture and food data sources: We are using the latest available global cropland data from MapSPAM 2010, but the IMPACT Model version 3 that was used to generate the food security datasets used crop data from MapSPAM 2005. Moreover, the IFPRI datasets on food security are currently only available for a subset of the 42 crops in the tool – those that were deemed most important for food security globally.
  • Aggregated datasets: One score or value is used to express water risk at a sub-catchment scale and agriculture and food security information at a national scale. In reality, there may be significant variation of risk within that region.
  • Modeling uncertainties: As with all modeling exercises, there is uncertainty in the results, especially when they involve projecting future data. For future projections, the tool displays one possible scenario and is meant to demonstrate one plausible set of changes relative to the present day. Specific values should not be used in isolation for policy decisions.
  • Limitations of input datasets: Limitations are inherent in each of the input datasets used in Aqueduct Food. See relevant documentation for Aqueduct 3.0Aqueduct Future ProjectionsMapSPAM 2010, and IFRPI IMPACT Model Version 3 more information.
  • Other caveats:
    • This version of the tool does not contain data on pasture land and livestock.
    • The vulnerability of crops to water related risks varies and is not modelled. Crop type, cropping calendars, soil type, elevation etc. all affect vulnerability.
    • Food availability is estimated based on food demand but does not consider external factors that may hinder access to food such as price.
    • Some populations, such as indigenous communities, participate in markets that are isolated from world food price fluctuations.
    • Water risk baseline data and future projections are generated using different data sources and methods.

Partners

Funders

Contact

For media inquiries or general Aqueduct inquiries, contact Leah Schleifer.

For specific data-related or usability inquiries or to provide feedback about Aqueduct Food, contact Sara Walker.