World Bank launches Water and Climate Atlas

The International Water Management Institute (IWMI), one of 16 Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) centres, has developed The World Water and Climate Atlas, a computerized tool that allows scientists, agronomists, specialists in agriculture, irrigation and weather, and farmers to zero in on their region of the globe and extract key water and climate data visually.

The Atlas will display and map the temperature, precipitation and other parameters for single months, crop seasons or annual periods.

In addition, an enormous quantity of additional information on population densities, river basins, vegetative indices, and other factors can also be visually displayed and analyzed. The Atlas, sponsored by the Japanese Government and the U.S. Agency for International Development, is available on the World Wide Web or on CD-ROM. A computer slide show demonstrating the Atlas can be viewed on the IWMI web site.

New ways must be developed to take advantage of this diminishing resource if humanity is to feed itself in the 21st century,” says Ismail Serageldin, CGIAR Chairman and World Bank Vice President for Special Programs.

One-quarter of the world’s population will suffer severe water scarcity within the next 25 years, even during years of average rainfall. This poses the single greatest threat to food security, human health and natural ecosystems of the next century, say scientists at the CGIAR.

Some 80 percent of all water used each year goes to irrigated agriculture, which produces 30-40 percent of world food crops on just 17 percent of all arable land. The demand for water for irrigated agriculture is increasing sharply: 50-60 percent of all new food output between 1960 and 1980 grew on irrigated land. Consequently, as surface water is fully utilized in the semi-arid regions of Asia, the Middle East and Africa, including some of the major bread baskets of the world, the groundwater table is falling at an alarming rate, says CGIAR.

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