Water impacts of intensive agriculture: new HFFA Research study deals with benefits of agricultural producvitity in the EU

In their newest research paper The value of agricultural productivity in the EU: impacts on water trade and water use, authors Steffen Noleppa and Matti Cartsburg (both HFFA Research) take a close look at virtual water trade and water productivity in the agricultural production of the European Union (EU).


One of the study’s main findings: the EU is currently a net importer of agricultural water. While a complete shift from productive agriculture to low input farming would reduce the domestic use of agricultural water, it would also lead to an additional import of more than 142 billion m³ virtual agricultural water into the EU. The overall virtual water trade of the EU (including all crop and livestock commodities) would change from around 107 billion m³ to almost 250 billion m³ – a water volume more than half as large as Lake Erie in North America. Therefore, productive agriculture in arable farming of the EU currently saves, on balance, a water volume that is approximately eight times larger than the current water use of all households in Germany.


The authors conclude that productive agriculture in the EU allows for using less water compared to low input farming, contributing significantly to a reduction of water resource use at global scale.


This research paper is the second part of a series aiming at quantifying the value generated by productive agriculture to farmers, consumers and society. In the first part of this series (The social, economic and environmental value of agricultural productivity in the European Union, published in 2013), water issues had not been included.


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