Water Well Journal

November 2016

Water Well Journal

Issue link: http://read.dmtmag.com/i/740475

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Page 46 of 90

"W ater for Food Security: Solutions for the Context" is the title of the 2016 Groundwater Week Keynote Session by Peter McCornick, Ph.D., PE, D.WRE, an internationally known expert in water, food, and environmental research. McCornick, the new executive director of the Daugherty Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska, will draw on insights gleaned from his work in Africa and Asia, as well as the United States. He will give particular emphasis to agricultural water management solu- tions in terms of technologies, practices, and policies; and to the opportunities to address the sustainability of critical groundwater resources. There is an opportunity to make sys- temic changes in agricultural water management that could significantly impact food security challenges around the world, according to McCornick. "Food and water security are two major interrelated challenges facing the world. Producing enough food for a growing, urbanizing, and wealthier human population requires increasing the use of water and land, placing more pressure on already degraded ecosystems, especially if we do not manage the use of these resources well," McCornick says. Prior to beginning his new position at the Daugherty Water for Food Institute, McCornick was deputy director general for research at the International Water Management Institute, based in Colombo, Sri Lanka. McCornick has accumulated numerous accolades from universities and organizations worldwide throughout his 30-plus years of experience in international water policy, water resources management, and climate adaptation. McCornick's joint session will be presented to attendees of both NGWA's Groundwater Week and the Irrigation Associa- tion's 2016 Irrigation Show and Education Conference. The session is open to all attendees of both events. Water Well Journal caught up with McCornick to find out more about his Keynote Session. Water Well Journal: The November issue of WWJ fo- cuses on global water. What do you see as key issues with water use for food in developing nations? Peter McCornick: In recent decades irrigated agriculture has continued to expand primarily with groundwater resources, especially in South and East Asia, the Middle East, and Cen- tral Asia, and more recently in sub-Saharan Africa. This ex- pansion has underpinned food security, as well as economic development and provided livelihoods for smallholder farm families. Agriculture is the largest user of groundwater globally, and in only four countries—India, China, Bangladesh, and Pakistan —more than one billion households depend on groundwater for agriculture. It is now estimated 44 percent of global food production is generated by groundwater, but 33 percent of this is already from non-renewable sources. Effectively managing this resource has been challenging and threatens the sustainability of these systems, most notably in western India, China, and the Middle East, most acutely in Jordan. Yet there are also key agricultural regions in the world such as the eastern Ganges plain in India, Southeast Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa where groundwater development is at a relatively early stage of development where reliable water re- sources present opportunities for intensifying food production and increasing food security. The key issue facing water resources management for food security—and groundwater specifically—is implementing practical and context-specific solutions to manage the resource to meet the growing demands for food. This includes addressing the degradation, both in terms of quantity and quality, in overdeveloped aquifers, and sustainably developing groundwater where it offers opportunity for further development. WWJ: In the United States, how critical is the drought in the West and Southwest? Peter: The chances of a 35-year or longer "megadrought" striking the Southwest and Central Great Plains by 2100 are above 80 percent if the world stays on its current trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions, report scientists from NASA, Columbia University, and Cornell University in a recent study published in the new open-access journal Science Advances. Water—and groundwater in particular—is vital to mitigat- ing the impacts of drought in the West and Southwest. Experi- ence from the recent drought in California shows the use of groundwater to augment shortfalls from other sources helps protect agricultural revenues. However, prolonged drought and reliance on groundwater will lead to depletion, as well as competition with other users, salinity, subsistence, and in some cases, degradation of the ecosystems. The recent experi- ence with drought in the West and Southwest is an important reminder of the significance of groundwater and the impor- tance of improving our management of the resource. WWJ: What role do groundwater professionals have in helping to solve these issues? Peter: Groundwater professionals are essential to developing and adapting technical, practical, and policy solutions for the effective governance and management of groundwater re- sources in a given context. The technologies used to measure, understand, and manage groundwater are developing rapidly, as are institutional and governance innovations to manage the resource. Groundwater professionals are vital in understanding the issues in a particular setting and supporting water users, man- GROUNDWATER WEEK Q&A PETER McCORNICK, PH.D., PE, D.WRE Executive director of the Daugherty Water for Food Institute Peter McCornick, Ph.D., PE, D.WRE waterwelljournal.com 42 November 2016 WWJ McCORNICK continues on page 44

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