We’re always interested in stories about water and farming—frankly, we’re a little too interested. So if we recommend this excellent Economist primer on the subject, we promise not to use the words “Ogallala Aquifer” for a few weeks. And that’s fine because the Economist, with its characteristic brevity, tells us more than the next half-dozen stories would anyway.

“The world has a water shortage, not a food shortage,” the magazine claims, and it is the agricultural sector that’s wasting that water faster than anyone else: Farming makes up 70 percent of water consumption. But as much as 70 percent of that water never gets to the crops, says the Economist. Drip irrigation is helping, where farmers can afford it, but scientists are also evolving maps to make water use more efficient: “Some have designed algorithms that use satellite data on surface temperatures to calculate the rate at which plants are absorbing and transpiring water. That allows governments and development agencies to concentrate their efforts on the most prodigal areas.” Presumably pricey, and possibly wildly impractical, but—zowie.

See more articles