The world's favourite crop is also the most water intensive

Agriculture consumes 70% of the world’s fresh water – of which, 30-40% is used for rice.

Since 1993, the United Nations has celebrated World Water Day to promote the importance of water and conservation of water resources. This year's theme highlights the critical link between water and climate change in protecting the health of people and the planet.

On average, a person drinks 2-4 litres of water each day and consumes at least 2,000 litres of 'virtual water', without realizing it.

If the world continues to use water unsustainably, billions will face further water shortages and hundreds of millions of people - mostly the poorest among us - will suffer from hunger and malnutrition as a result.

From paddy to drip

Agriculture consumes up to 70% of the planet’s fresh water, with conventional rice production responsible for over a third of the world’s irrigation water. To meet future demand without compromising the world’s finite resources, we need innovative technologies, such as drip irrigation in order to grow more with less.

  • Rice is the world's most water intensive crop.
  • Producing 1 kg of rice through paddy irrigation requires 2,500 litres of water, while rice grown through drip irrigation only uses 900 litres.
  • Drip irrigation delivers water and nutrients directly to the roots and avoids contamination of groundwater.
  • Switching from traditional paddy irrigation to drip irrigation will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from rice, equivalent to 40 million private road vehicles.

Unlike conventional paddy irrigation through flooding, drip irrigation delivers water through pipes and directly to the root zone. This method has the potential to reduce water consumption by up to 50% and increase yield by at least 25%.

The Tamil Nadu story

India suffers from severe water shortages, especially in southern regions like the state of Tamil Nadu. Therefore, more and more farmers are adopting drip irrigation technology that allows them to increase yields while using less water.

Mr. M. Parthasarathy, 69, from Govindapuram village in Tamil Nadu, received the Innovative Rice Farmer Award from the Indian Rice Research Institute, Hyderabad for large scale adoption of drip irrigation system in rice cultivation.

Mr. Parthasarathy's unique achievement is the usage of drip irrigation and crop rotation - he cultivated onion, maize and rice in rotation using drip irrigation. ​Not only did he save 45% water, he also increased yields by 50%.

Climate change requires us to make a paradigm change, even in the ancient craft of rice cultivation and paddy irrigation. Rice production using drip irrigation technology can help feed an ever-increasing global population with reduced environmental impact.

About the Sustainable Rice Platform: The Sustainable Rice Platform is a multi-stakeholder alliance comprising over 100 institutional members. SRP promotes resource-use efficiency and climate change resilience in rice systems – both on-farm and throughout value chains – and pursues voluntary market transformation initiatives by developing sustainable production standards, indicators, incentive mechanisms and outreach mechanisms to boost wide-scale adoption of sustainable best practices in rice production.

About Netafim: Netafim, the world's largest precision irrigation company and a member of Sustainable Rice Platform, is on a mission to fight water scarcity. By promoting a shift to drip-irrigated rice, Netafim supports rice sector transformation towards a sustainable future.

Lea Las Piñas, Sustainable Rice Platform | Email: laspinas@un.org

Roei Yonai, Crops Leader, Netafim | Email: Roei.Yonai@netafim.com

Created By
Sustainable Rice Platform