Howard Wheater, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Water Security at the University of Saskatchewan, will speak at the 2014 Agricultural Biotechnology International Conference (ABIC) on October 7. ABIC is the premier global meeting that promotes innovation in bioscience to ensure sustainable food, feed, fibre and fuel security as the climate changes.
Wheater—who also serves as director of the Global Institute for Water Security—will address the links between agriculture and water security.
“Alongside food security, water security is one of the 21st century’s major global challenges,” says Wheater. “Unsustainable water use is widespread, and there is increasing competition for water resources at local, regional and international scales.”
While water security is an international issue, we are also feeling the pressure in Canada.
“Land and water are intimately connected, so agriculture not only depends on water, but also affects water in many ways,” says Wheater. “There are increasing pressures on water quality as well as quantity, and increasing populations at risk from the extremes of flood and drought, with large associated human and economic costs. These pressures are set to increase with a growing population and changing climate.”
Irrigation accounts for 80 per cent of global water consumption. As the population increases, there will be growing tension surrounding water slated for growing food and water required for other uses.
“The Global Institute for Water Security aims to be a world leader in developing the necessary trans‑disciplinary research, linking science and engineering with social science and policy,” says Wheater. “How we develop and manage our water futures will ultimately depend on good science informing some hard choices for the management of both land and water. We aim to develop the new science and link it to new tools to support decision-making, so we can better engage with policy-makers, stakeholders and the public.”