The atlas described in the folowing article might be useful for those outside the U.S. who have little access to local climate data. Could be useful for choosing a place to start up subsistence farming in the next few years.
Offered by Euan.
Study cites water shortages in parts of world
by Randolph E. Schmid, Associated Press writer
Water shortages in parts of the world in the next 25 years will pose the single greatest threat to food production and human health, according to a study financed by the United States and Japan. At a time when 1.3 billion people worldwide have no access to clean water, it also could become a key issue in conflicts, warns the report's author, World Bank vice president and agriculture expert Ismail Serageldin. "New ways must be developed to take advantage of this diminishing resource if humanity is to feed itself in the 21st century," said Serageldin, who heads the Consultative Group of International Agricultural Research.
In an effort to improve water management, the group has compiled a massive electronic world water and climate atlas, a high-tech undertaking designed to assist local farmers, their bankers, government planners and even international financial groups. Work on the atlas was financed by the Japanese government and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Few Third World farmers have the knowledge or equipment to download the atlas from the Internet or read it from compact discs, Serageldin acknowledged. But the data will be available to government agriculture agents who work with farmers. Indeed, the project has already identified a region in Bangladesh where farmers can plant a type of chickpea on land that previously was left idle during the dry season - thus adding a second crop to their annual food production, he said.
The atlas provides maps of every country on earth, with the user able to call up a variety of information. For example, farmers can examine rainfall and hours of sunshine, temperature averages and soil types in their home area. Worldwide, about 80 percent of water use goes for agriculture, and demand is increasing. Most new food output comes from land that requires irrigation - meaning that water scarcity, not shortage of land, is likely to be the biggest impediment to food production in developing countries. The atlas, Serageldin said, can help identify "areas which today do not produce food but could without destroying forest." It can tell planners where new or different crops might be grown without irrigation, or with supplemental irrigation rather than costly full-time irrigation.
In all, a quarter of the world's population is expected to face severe water scarcity in the next 25 years, even during years of average rainfall, the group estimates. And as surface water increasingly is used up fully in semiarid regions of Asia, the Middle East and Africa, groundwater tables are falling. The group also hopes to add more local information to the atlas. That effort is now complete for the Indian Ocean country of Sri Lanka, and other parts of Asia are being added. "Down on the small scale is where the investment decisions come in," Serageldin said. In the past, the data in the atlas has not easily been available to local farmers and planners, but was usually scattered among several government or international agencies. Now it is accessible on a set of compact discs and is scheduled to be available in December on the group's Water Management Institute Internet page.
Until it is put on the Internet, the atlas can be obtained from
International Water Management Institute
P.O. Box 2075
Colombo, Sri Lanka