Irrigation: One of Those Surprisingly High-tech Pursuits
The invention of irrigation launched “civilization” with agriculture of any scale appearing only after the development of irrigation to support that scale. In its early incarnation, irrigation involved people carrying buckets of water from wells or rivers to water their crops. Later, Egypt and China constructed irrigation infrastructure: canals, dams, dikes, and storage cisterns. Rome built aqueducts to carry water from the Alps to cities and towns in the valleys below.
The Three Gorges Dam is but a recent, high-profile example of how the need to water crops has triggered massive changes to the landscape, displaced people and wrought significant ecological changes often without an understanding of the full consequences of the actions. King Menes, of Egypt’s First Dynasty launched the first major irrigation project building dams and canals to divert flood waters of the Nile river to lake Moeris.
Historically, strides in irrigation technology have led to population concentration and population growth. They have also had significant impact on the planet both in terms of direct environmental impact and population growth.
Feeding Greater & Greater Populations in the Last Century
The twentieth century has witnessed growing population with increasing demand for farmland to provide food. Last century, the amount of irrigated land in the world doubled and roughly eighteen percent of the world’s cropland is now irrigated.
To help meet the increased demand for food, more farming and more irrigation will be needed. Almost certainly this will deplete aquifers, reducing the amount of freshwater available for drinking and hygiene.
Australia’s agricultural boom of recent decades means that it has also seen a huge increase in the use of irrigation. The Australian government estimates that 70% of rural Australia’s water is used for irrigation so now officials are working to conserve Australia's water.
Heywire Youth Issues Forum’s 40 Hour Drought, encourages people to use as little water as possible for 40 hours to preview dwindling water supplies. It was meant to build awareness and to reduce overall water use.
The Irrigation Australia International Conference and Exhibition (IAICE)
Running from June 13 -15th at the Sydney International Convention Centre, Irrigation Australia is a conference that brings together local and international speakers who will share their expertise on irrigation from across the world under the theme of “Addressing the Big Issues.”
These exchanges of information to consider technology, policy and commercial questions couldn’t be more relevant in the face of climate change and population growth and food security shaping up as significant leitmotifs in the coming decades.