Is your water source ‘good’ enough for agriculture?

Access to sufficient irrigation water is the key for many small-scale farmers in order to sustain their livelihoods and attain food security.

‘Will there be enough water?’ is what most people ask when farming, but to be aware if one’s water is clean enough is another question to answer. A step towards achieving a more sustainable way of agriculture is knowing what makes a water source safe.

Senior researcher Everisto Mapedza of International Water Management Institute (IWMI) lists the factors that dictate a good water source.

Mapedza said that there are several types of ‘good’ water depending on the purpose it would serve. He mentioned that higher quality of water would be needed for irrigation, especially for vegetables that are eaten raw. Meanwhile, diluted urban wastewater is an alternative for the rising need for safe water.

Salts, ions, and pH content are also basis of water quality. Irrigation water depends on salt amount in water because it affects water flow and retention in plant roots, though the effects vary depending on the soil and crop type, climate, and the skills of the farmer. Too much ions such as sodium and chloride damage crops. Having too much nutrients also decrease quality of crops. Abnormal pH amount results in flawed products that make it harder to sell in the market.

Water corrosion of equipment and proliferation of diseases carried by mosquitoes such as malaria, are points to evaluate when checking water quality. High levels of those two are indications of low-quality water.

Even though these guidelines are important to consider, it is also sound to believe the expertise of farmers about their resources.

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