By FRANCIS N. TOLENTINO
Recently through this same column, we submitted the proposal of establishing a separate Department of Water Resources Management to ensure the proper management of our water resources in the country. We emphasized the importance of clean and safe water in the health and wellness of Filipinos. For this part, I would like to highlight the need for efficient management of water resources and establishment of appropriate irrigation networks as tools for strengthening of the agriculture sector, thus ensuring an adequate supply of food for the people.
A study conducted by the World Bank revealed that 70% of water withdrawals in the world is done for agricultural purposes. Agriculture is also the primary user of water in the Philippines, accounting for more than 80% of water usage. Because water is a gift, a blessing which sustains not only agriculture but also the life of industries and communities, it should thus be managed and used wisely.
In the same study we mentioned above, experts stated that land irrigated through irrigation networks is twice as productive as land which received only rainfall for irrigation. Considering the foregoing, there is indeed great need for an irrigation system to increase productivity, increase food supply in the market, and increase farmers’ profits.
With the ever-increasing demand for water brought about by population growth and industrialization, not to mention the irreversible impact of climate change on our water resources, the call for an agency that will concentrate efforts, actions, and resources on ensuring water and water resources sustainability becomes more and more urgent.
While the application of technology to agriculture has enabled us to produce more resistant crops and greater yield, there is also a need to safeguard the availability of water to sustain agricultural life. Public and private partnerships will play a critical role in the establishment of more efficient irrigation systems and more advanced technology for its maintenance. Increased funding will also be essential in building more irrigation networks in the country. It is important for all stakeholders in the water sustainability issue to understand the relationship between efficient irrigation to ensure water supply for the strengthening agriculture and ensuring food supply and economic growth.