Handling Water Scarcity

Even though most of the world is covered in water, there is little freshwater on earth and most of that is locked up in ice near the poles. We have very little usable freshwater, so we have to use it wisely. To use it wisely, we must use it in the most efficient ways.

Saving Water at Home

The first thing to point out that industry uses far more water than households. Water conservation in the household is still important and it’s easier to cut out unnecessary uses of water in the household than in industry. Some ways we can cut down on water use at home are:

  • Using water efficient shower heads.
  • Using water efficient toilets.
  • Taking shorter showers.
  • Not filling a swimming pool.
  • Having a water efficient garden.

The last point is most important because you can have a useful and attractive garden without using much water. Lawns are very water intensive and they’re not cheap to maintain. It’s better to replace a lawn with gravel or some other low water consumption cover.

Using native plants in your garden is also a good idea because they are more suited to your climate. If you live in a dry area, native plants will consume less water.

Saving Water in Industry

The easiest way to save water in industry is to cut down our consumption of food. We can do that by not letting any waste food be thrown in the bin. Using all the food we buy can be an effective way of cutting down our water consumption. If you want to go on a diet, you can use water conservation as an excuse. Also, changing what we eat helps. If we cut down on meat, then we will be conserving more water.


Industry itself can cut down on water use. Most water is used in irrigation and individual farms can adopt techniques to minimise their water consumption. Laser levelling of paddocks is a very cost effective way of reducing water consumption for broad acre crops. There are other benefits to laser levelling, such as less drainage infrastructure and better weed control because the paddock no longer has high and dry spots. Other ways farms can lower their water consumption are by using centre pivots instead of flood irrigation, or where possible use subsurface drip irrigation. Drip irrigation is the most water efficient type of irrigation in use.

Close monitoring of the environment and water use is also useful for farmers. Having water meters measure the water poured on each crop is very useful information.  Monitoring weather will let them plan their irrigation better. By forecasting rainfall, they can effectively reduce irrigation in anticipation of rainfall replacing their irrigation. Another useful statistic is evapotranspiration because that lets farmers know how much water has been lost to the environment. By knowing that figure, farmers can irrigate only to replace the water lost to the environment and not pour too much on that would go to waste.

On the large scale, industry can cut down water use by using more water efficient infrastructure. Dams should be built across steep and deep valleys to minimise evaporation loses. Water distribution should be by pipes instead of channels because water cannot evaporate out of pipes.

Water should only be delivered to the most efficient industries. One way to do this is through setting up a market for water. Australia has done this successfully in the Murray-Darling basin. This way water only goes to the farms that use the water cost effectively and it discourages wasting water. A very informative water broker you can learn more about water trading from is Water Broking World.

There are many ways the water market can help countries develop more efficient water use. By setting a price on water, it encourages farmers to set up more efficient irrigation infrastructure. So not only does water go to the best industries, it also encourages those industries to become more efficient.

There are many ways we can help the world use its limited water resources efficiently and helping industry become more water efficient is a priority. We can all do our part by cutting down on household water use and fixing our consumption choices.

Dr Holly Haviland

Welcome Back

I’ve just been on a week long adventure through central Australia, one of the driest places on planet Earth. There are vast deserts and not much rain, but there are plenty of species thriving in the outback.

Even in the middle of the outback there are rivers. They might not be flowing all the time, but they exist and when they flow, it’s amazing. They’re shallow rivers so it’s more of a long moving flood, but it is amazing if you get the chance to see it.

There is hardly any rainfall, but when it comes, it just changes the landscape. The ground cannot absorb much moisture, so the place just becomes flooded and then a few days later it is teeming with wildlife. I highly recommend visiting because it’s a once in a lifetime adventure.


Dr Holly Haviland


Overpopulation can occur in any species, but in this post I will only discuss human overpopulation. In fact, overpopulation is more worrying in non-human species because of their inability to use artificial birth control or their awareness of the problem. Every species has a limit to how many individuals can exist because their food supply is limited by the species they eat. If their food supply is limited, such as restrictions on land, water, pests or other restrictions, then the number of individuals is limited. Animals will just breed until their carrying capacity is met and then subsequent members of their species will just die.


Humans can become aware of the problem, but realising the problem exists is not always straightforward. Each population has a carrying capacity and that’s where the main area of disagreement exists.

Growing Food to Eat

Obviously the first thing to come to mind is that we must have enough resources to grow enough food and water to survive. That sets the absolute upper limit on how many humans the world can sustain.

This is not just about having enough land and water to grow enough food to survive. We also need to have enough other resources to produce food. Some land needs to be dedicated to factories to process the food and we need to lock away vast tracts of land in reservoirs to store the water we need for irrigation. We need oil to power farm machinery, transport goods and to make fertilisers.

We also need to protect our farms from pests and extreme weather conditions. So the total number of humans we can feed is actually quite limited.

Quality of Life

Another example of the carrying capacity limit is in the food types we eat. We throw away so much usable food and what’s thrown away needs to be included in what’s grown too. Also certain crops are more efficient at turning resources into food. Eating meat is the most resource intensive way to make food. The human carrying capacity depends on what we choose to eat.

Just surviving is not all there is to life. We have other activities which require us to use our natural resources. For example, if we are to have land to ride trail bikes and other recreational activities, we are usually taking land that could otherwise be used for farming. We also need land for factories, ports and airports. While we could do without these things, it’s important to take them into consideration when looking at the number of humans we can sustain.

Overpopulation is not a simple problem and there is more to it than meets the eye. We need to consider many factors and maintaining a high quality of life is important. After all, there is no point in bringing more people into the world if they are going to live in misery.

Everyone needs to start raising awareness on overpopulation because I think that’s one thing that while become a concern in the future. We want to sustain our quality of life, so please think before breeding.

Dr Holly Haviland

3 Environmental Challenges We Must Overcome

I am passionate about saving our planet from anthropogenic environmental destruction. Our species is a blight on the face of the planet, but we don’t have to be. We are smart enough to transform our planet for the worse, so we are smart enough to transform it for the better.

In this post I will cover the three most pressing environmental issues of our day and what we need to fix them. These are not trivial challenges and our solutions are incomplete. We need to put more of our intelligence towards developing strategies to overcome our problems than we spend on creating those problems. It seems most of humanity wants to do something, but we just don’t know what.

First Challenge: Climate Change


This is the most transformative environmental event in human history. At no other time in our evolution or our existance will we see such a dramatic shift in global weather and climate conditions. The root cause of these problems is greenhouse gases because they are like an insulating blanket hanging around our planet. You would think an insulating blanket would be comfortable, but it poses problems to the other species we share the planet with. For example, some animals cannot tolerate the warmer weather.

Another problem is landscape changes. Ice begins to melt and this means polar bears and penguins have fewer places to call their home. They can’t sleep in the water, so we need a way to ensure they have places to sleep. Traditionally this has been on icebergs and ice shelves, but they are disappearing because the insulating blanket is melting them away. We might have to build floating animal sanctuaries resembling icebergs just to house the animals that traditionally used water constructed icebergs as their homes.

We also face the problem of ocean acidification. Carbon dioxide makes carbonic acid in water and as we pump more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, there is more carbonic acid generated in our oceans. This has disastrous effects on coral reefs because coral melts in acid.

Second Challenge: Soil Erosion

Soil Erosion

We’ve cleared many millions of hectares (acres for old fashioned types) of land just to support our agriculture. This land was cleared to make way for crops and animals. We need cleared land because food crops need lots of sunlight, room and machinery needs wide open spaces to run over crops. Leaving the trees in place would not work because of these factors.

Before land clearing, the soil was held in place by bushes and trees because their roots extend into the soil and physically hold it in place. Also the foliage acts to slow down wind so the wind speed is lower over the dirt. This means the dirt cannot fly off into the distance and make a majestic dust storm.

When trees and bushes are in the soil, they add nutrients and house bacteria to add more nutrients to the soil. Perennial plants don’t need this continual supply of nutrients because they already exist and grow slower, so their nutrient requirements are lower.

When land is used in agriculture, it is frequently irrigated. This leads to soil being washed into rivers, lakes, oceans and other water bodies. Also this soil is frequently contaminated with pesticides and fertiliser, which messes with waterways. Fertiliser can add to algal blooms and that can be annoying if you want to drink the water or drive a pump through algae infested water.

Third Challenge: Water Security

Water Ski

Water skiing is fun! However, water skiing can only be possible for many while the dams and lakes are full. We have no other place to water ski easily because rivers and lakes are too far and few between or they are too shallow and full of snags. It’s also convenient and where people live.

More importantly, we use water to drink and to irrigate our crops. We need water to live and it’s an essential natural resource. So our future depends on our ability to secure clean, safe freshwater in volumes needed to support our existence.

Drinking water is the most vital part of our day. To get water in our glass, it must come from reservoirs located on the edges of urban areas. These reservoirs must be filled by rain falling in local valleys or by being filled from rivers that start further away. It then undergoes extensive filtration and runs through the pipes to your tap. It’s a long process and there are more explanatory and in depth resources on the internet.

More Reading on Dams


Water is also needed to grow food as crops need water to grow. It’s quite extensive how much water we need to grow our food and that will be left for another blog post. Our water security needs for food production are even more perilous than those needed for drinking water and water skiing.

These are the three main challenges we face as we move into a future where we have to cope with our poor decisions of the past. The Food and Water Award will help all of us overcome those challenges by linking leaders in their respective fields together and making the world a better place. It is only through cooperation will we achieve a peaceful and prosperous future.

Dr Holly Haviland

Increasing Crop Yields

Crop yields are closely related to farm productivity. By producing more with the same resources, farms can lower costs and lower their reliance on natural resources. We want crop yields to be optimal instead of being the greatest. The difference being an optimal crop yield uses the resources given to it in the most productive way per unit of resource, whereas the greatest yield can have more resources thrown at it than is absolutely necessary.

Lower crop prices will ease the stress of poverty in developing countries. We don’t just need to think about the environment, we also need to be mindful of prices to enable efficient technology to be accessible to everyone. We have duties to both the environment and our humanitarian duty.

My main area of research in the past has been in agricultural science, which is what this post is about. The award will also cover the fields of hydrology, water resource management and soil management. We need a structured approach to our future problems which is interdisciplinary and encourages understanding with stakeholders outside of research, academia and commerce.

Over the coming months I will write blog posts about each field of research we are interested in and we’ll gain an understanding of where each field is at and the possibilities of interdisciplinary cooperation.

New Crop Management

Consumers these days are in increasing numbers demanding organic food. This must be grown on organic farms which are subject to strict guidelines and periodic inspections. Organic food cannot be grown in unnatural pesticides and fertilisers, but some organic farming associations consider natural pesticides and fertilisers as acceptable for growing organic food. Another point of contention is the use of genetically modified organisms (GMO). Some consider GMO to be fine, others do not. The FAO has an in depth discussion on the definitions of organic farming.

Organic farming does not necessarily mean decreased crop yields. Over the past few years techniques have been developed to overcome the challenges of growing without synthetic chemicals, such as push pull planting of grasses. Certain grasses contain natural pesticides and others attract pests, which in synergy can keep a field free from pests.


Of great concern is the competition between food crops and fuel crops. This leads to higher food prices. An in depth discussion is on the Oxfam Canada website.

Palm oil has the highest yield of any crop and that is a shame because palm oil plantations are competing with food crops in the developing world and destroying natural rainforests.

Our Future

As visionaries of the future, we need to develop new techniques for increasing crop yields. This will help us overcome the challenges of feeding a world of seven billion people. Compounding on our problem, we have reduced environmental certainty from the impacts of climate change. With water shortages on the horizon, we need to be prepared ahead of time to enable us to swiftly sail into the future.

This award will recognise those who enable us to use our scarce resources efficiently. By increasing crop yields, you are doing your part to save humanity from the problems of running against our natural resource limits.

Dr Holly Haviland

Expressions of Interest

The Water and Food Efficiency Award would like to gather all the minds in water and food production to work out what the world needs to do to secure our water and food for the future. We’re living in a time of great change because the world population has reached seven billion and we need to find ways to use our scarce resources efficiently.

This award will recognise achievements in water and food production and foster an understanding of how different stakeholders can help each other in achieving great things. Our world needs visionaries and inventors to overcome the technical difficulties of food production and water shortages. As we can see in areas affected by El Niño, there are great social, economic and physiological consequences to running out of water and food.

As we move into the middle of the 21st century, the challenges we face will become greater. Our priority right now and above all else should be to ensure the well-being of all. To not do so, is to not be human. To fulfil our humanitarian obligations, it’s important we have a detailed roadmap of how we’re going to overcome these challenges.

We haven’t got close to our full potential with the resources we have tapped so far, so there are room for improvements in efficiency. The goal of these awards is to encourage our best efforts in achieving greater efficiency in food production and water conservation.

Further to the goal, we want to encourage transparency and openness in innovation. This means we will be publishing the details on potential technologies we can use to meet our great challenges.

The award is not a cut throat competition. We will showcase the ideas generated and promote multiple winning ideas.

To conclude this post, I welcome anyone with an interest in submitting an application or an expert who would like to be a judge to get in contact. Please click on the contact us page and fill in the form.

Dr Holly Haviland