Fresh water is a resource that is just as important to humanity today as it was in ancient times, when civilizations such as Egypt and Mesopotamia thrived because of their access to reliable supplies. But today the stresses placed on water supplies by a large global population with rapidly growing demands raise unprecedented challenges. The challenges are particularly important for agriculture, which consumes approximately 70% of water appropriated for human use.1 Agricultural water supplies in many regions of the world are threatened both by unsustainable depletion and by degradation in quality. In this paper, we consider the role of water in agriculture and use a number of case studies to develop conclusions concerning long-term sustainable water resource management.
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