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    How Different Regions Around the World Are Approaching Water Scarcity

    How different regions around the world are approaching water scarcity
    by Devon Wright

    Here at Lumo, we talk a lot about the water scarcity and concerns in California because that’s where we’re based. However, we know we certainly don’t have the corner on the market when it comes to water shortages on a global scale.

    The truth is that drought affects farmers, growers, and societies around the world. And while we usually focus on the conditions relevant to the growers in California, we wanted to highlight the struggles – and successes – of a few different countries and regions as they work to adapt to climate change, increased temperatures, and more extreme drought conditions.

    Let’s look at four areas around the world dealing with water shortages and the steps they’re taking to handle these imminent threats.


    What’s going on?

    If you’ve been in the wine industry for any amount of time, you’re probably familiar with Spain’s fight against water scarcity. This country has been in a shortage for years, with vineyards being hit hard. Increased temperatures mean grapes ripen faster and must be harvested sooner, or the grapes simply aren’t of the same quality due to heat stress.

    But the concerns about water shortages go beyond Spain’s wine industry. The country’s olive producers are also struggling thanks to the hottest summer and the third-driest year (both in 2022) on record since the 1960s. Spain’s agriculture minister said the country was on track to produce only half as many olives as it did in 2021

    What’s being done? 

    Winemakers in Spain are already taking steps to save their industry. For starters, they’re working with scientists to revive old grape varietals that have longer ripening times and are more heat tolerant. Some winemakers are even planting vineyards at higher elevations, seeing if the resulting grapes will produce the same quality and characteristics they’re used to harvesting in lower environments.

    Olive producers are looking for solutions to water scarcity, as well, including investing in smarter irrigation systems and more drought-resistant varieties of olive trees. Experts are also working to convince some producers to reduce their current output in hopes of becoming more resilient and sustainable in the long-term.


    What’s going on?

    Hotter weather, decreased rainfall, and even wildfires are the biggest threats facing farmers and growers in Portugal today. In mid-2022, over 90% of the country was facing drought conditions due to water scarcity. Farmers cultivating crops like olives, barley, pomegranates, and almonds have had to rely on pumped water from nearby rivers.

    Winemakers have fared just as poorly. With vineyard irrigation often restricted by local regulations, grapes have been sunburned or seen restricted growth as the grapes conserve their energy for survival. Wildfires have destroyed vineyards, or at the very least, come to the borders of winemakers’ properties, scorching grapes not with fire but with the hot winds coming off the burn.

    What’s being done? 

    Growers and farmers in Portugal are starting to rely on the data and feedback technology can provide them about their soil, water, plants, and overall growing conditions as solutions to water scarcity. Many producers are also turning to weather stations, satellite images, and drones as a way to combat climate change and prepare for water shortages.

    Portuguese winemakers are taking similar steps to protect their crops and investments, while also looking at producing smaller batches of concentrated wine from grapes that have survived. Vineyard growers are also paying attention to soil types (as clay-based and fertile soils are retaining more water).  


    What’s going on?

    Italy dealt with a drier and warmer winter in 2021, which led to a reduced flow of water in the country’s main river, the Po. Situated in northern Italy, the Po River basin has seen more frequent drought conditions increase since the 1980s, with the average annual temperature rising about 2 degrees Celsius and annual rainfall decreasing by about 20%. 

    Unfortunately for Italian farmers, growers, and winemakers who rely on the Po for water and irrigation, these drought conditions have had significant impacts to their crops. The Po Valley region grows the majority of Italy’s food, as well as 50% of the entire EU’s rice production (a water-intensive crop). However, the recent water scarcity has forced many farmers to use expensive water pumps to keep their crops alive, as well as reduce watering and irrigation frequency. 

    What’s being done? 

    Italian scientists, experts, and farmers aren’t quite sure how to move forward, but some solutions to water scarcity have been proposed. Some are asking for more reservoirs to be built, while others claim this move wouldn’t be enough, and that less water-intensive crops need to be considered.

    No matter what route Italy goes to deal with water shortages, many affected citizens agree that Italy needs to change its approach to water as a whole. The Po and related bodies of water in the country can no longer be seen as infinite water sources; instead, being smarter about water usage and consumption will be key to Italian growers’ and farmers’ survival. 


    What’s going on?

    Africa is no stranger to droughts, but several countries on this continent have seen higher than usual temperatures and reduced precipitation over the last several years. Zambia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Africa, and South Sudan are just a few of the countries in eastern Africa dealing with ongoing water scarcity and shortages.

    Many of these countries in the Horn of Africa region are experiencing their fifth consecutive failed rainy season. Other areas are struggling to deal with floodwaters that the drought-affected soil can’t soak up fast enough. Crops and animals are dying, causing pastoral communities to move continuously in the hopes of finding water and food. And starvation is an overarching, imminent reality for millions of people. 

    What’s being done? 

    If the situation in Africa seems dire, it is. However, several organizations and individuals are working tirelessly to make sure farmers and growers on this continent are prepared for the future and have the solutions to water scarcity they need to survive.

    Overall, there’s an emphasis on teaching producers proper farming and crop management practices, like rotating/diversifying crops and mulching between plants to conserve water in the soil. Governments and organizations are also encouraging small-scale farmers (those most affected by losses due to climate change) to adopt drought-tolerant crops; Zimbabwe farmers, for example, earned $240 USD more per hectare when they grew larger yields of drought-tolerant maize.

    Where do we go from here?

    Climate change affects everyone, and water scarcity isn’t going away anytime soon. Steps need to be taken now across the world to help farmers, growers, and producers continue to thrive, so our global food supply and billions of lives have more security and hope for the future. 

    In the end, we’re all in this together, no matter where in the world we live.

    To learn more about how you can make your crops more resilient to drought and climate change with irrigation technology, contact us here or email us at [email protected]

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