Countries Where Agriculture Is The Primary User Of Water

Massive volumes of water are used to irrigate and flood the terraced rice paddies in the hills of Nepal.
Massive volumes of water are used to irrigate and flood the terraced rice paddies in the hills of Nepal.

Food production and other components of the agricultural sector consume 70% of earth’s fresh water usage. Water that we get from rivers and ground is used for irrigation purposes. Irrigation requirements differ depending on the size, climate and geographical conditions. The main source of food consumed by the entire world comes from agriculture and livestock husbandry. The quantity and variety of food depends on the changing demands of consumer, which has a direct impact on the consumption of water.

Water Withdrawals Used for Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock

Fresh water withdrawals have increased by three-fold over the course of the last generation. According to the sources from the United Nations (UN), demand for fresh water has reached up to 64 billion cubic meters a year. Only 40% of the water withdrawn from rivers, lakes and aquifers for agriculture effectively contributes to the production. As per the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and its AQUASTAT division, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Nepal are the top three countries to divert the highest percentage of water use towards agriculture.


Somalia has the longest coast line in Africa with arid to semi-arid temperatures where surface water is the main water source. 99.5% of the water withdrawn is used for agriculture, irrigation and livestock. In the hot seasons, groundwater supply in Somalia often becomes scarce.

Irrigation and Water Management: With minimum infrastructural developments, access to household water and irrigated agriculture is in a very bad state here. Rain fed and irrigation based crops are low due to lack of efficient methods and farming skills.

Water Contamination: It is believed that most common diseases that occur are due to contamination of water. Shortage of water supply, contaminated water and water logging are the major hindrances in this area. In rural areas, water supply to households is as low as 7 liters per day and has intrusion of salt waters from seas due to extensive ground water digging.


Afghanistan is a land-locked central Asian country. The economy here is mainly dependent on agriculture and so, 99% of the total water withdrawal is used by agriculture sector.

Irrigation and Water Management: Afghanistan is a water-rich country but most of its water resources are under used. War and civil unrest had badly affected irrigation system. Quantity of the produce varies across the country due to relative water scarcity and poor irrigation systems.

Water Contamination: Degradation of water land and contaminated water poses a major crisis here. Due to continuous drought, drinking water is not available to majority of the rural areas. Though quality of ground water is good, it varies from place to place.


Nepal has varied climatic conditions. 93% of the economically active population is involved in agriculture and 98.2% of the total water withdrawal is used for agricultural purpose.

Irrigation and Water Management: Setbacks faced in Nepal are inefficient performance of irrigation systems and under utilization of canal water as major rivers here are not tapped for irrigation. Modernization of irrigation systems and better water management practices could help in reducing irrigation water withdrawal and increase irrigated land's production levels.

Improved Water Management For Farms In The Developing World

Agriculture will continue to use the most amount of water at global level, especially in the countries with arid and semi-arid regions. However, if water saving technologies is made available to the farmers, it can significantly bring down the water wastage. Water from domestic, industrial and farming can be reused if the pollution loads of water are reduced.

Countries Where Agriculture Is The Primary User Of Water

RankCountry% of Total Water Use Diverted Towards Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock

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