Green and blue water demand from large-scale land acquisitions in Africa

Freshwater appropriation can have vast impacts, depending on management and scale of water use. Since 2000, foreign investors have contracted an area the size of the United Kingdom in Africa, leading to increased pressure on water resources. Here we couple site-specific water demand for the crops planted there to the efficiency of different irrigation systems, while relating these estimates to local water availability. This approach enables us to identify “hotspot” areas of freshwater use where crops demand more water from irrigation than can be supplied by soil moisture, where the potential water demands from large-scale land acquisitions pose a risk for increased competition over water resources. Of these land acquisitions, 18% would be hotspots even with the most efficient irrigation system implemented.

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