Water water everywhere. Just who are we kidding

This year we have been able to send Young Eco Champions as well as Young Farming Champions into schools as part of a Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry supported Archibull Prize

This has been particularly rewarding for me as I know just how much our farm has benefited from working with natural resource management professionals and it has given me great joy to be able to partner our Young Farming Champions and the next generation of consumers and decision and policy makers (school students) with these bright young minds.

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Clover Hill paired with Next Gen to look after the farm’s scarce natural resources

Whereas our Young Farming Champions have their individual food and fibre industries behind them our Young Eco Champions don’t have an umbrella organisation that supports them financially and/or provides them with the type of personal and professional development Art4Agriculture offers and it’s been mind-blowing for me to see how they have flourished under the Young Eco Champions program.

Going into schools the Young Eco Champions have discovered that the knowledge base of students about natural resource management varies widely from school to school from almost nothing to exceptional and seems dependent on the culture within the school with some primary schools in the Archibull Prize 2013 leading the way.

They have found in the main that urban schools have their heads around sustainability in the context of reducing personal carbon footprint through recycling, reduced waste etc. because that’s what is driven through a lot of local council initiatives and some of the students with a rural background understood weed management issues and why it is important to manage weeds however knowledge of what it takes to farm sustainably and wider catchment management issues where almost non-existent.

Last week I joined Young Eco Champion Megan Rowlatt who returned to one of her schools to conduct a bush regeneration workshop with the students.

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Young Eco Champion Megan Rowlatt and students attacking the evil asparagus fern 

I was recently reminded just how important it is for us all to have a wider knowledge of what is happening to our scarce natural resources beyond our front fences when I came across this article Where the world’s running out of water, in one map by Brad Plumer in the Washington Post

Brad asks the question

And with the global population soaring past 7 billion, this is one of the biggest questions the world is now facing. Can better conservation practices and new technology enable farmers to keep feeding the planet without depleting its most important water resources?

Its pretty scary to know that approximately 1.7 billion people rely on aquifers that are rapidly being depleted and would take thousands of years to refill, according to the study in the journal Nature.

The report, “Water balance of global aquifers revealed by groundwater footprint,” identifies aquifers in the U.S., Mexico, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, India and China as crisis zones where groundwater resources and/or groundwater-dependent ecosystems are under threat because the use of water vastly exceeds the rate at which aquifers are being refilled by rain.

The underground reservoir in north-western India, for instance, would need 54 times more rainfall to replenish the water that’s currently being used by farmers and the local population.

In the map below, the blue areas mark where rain can replenish the amount of water being used by humans. Orange or red areas indicate places where people draw out more for irrigation and drinking water than rain can refill.

The grey areas show the extent of the “groundwater footprint” by representing how much water people are drawing from the aquifers compared with how much water each holds.

Water map

When we know Australia

  • is the driest inhabited continent on earth, with the least amount of water in rivers, the lowest run-off and the smallest area of permanent wetlands of all the continents.
  • and one third of the continent produces almost no run-off at all and Australia’s rainfall and stream-flow are the most variable in the world.

And then you see the big picture problem the world is facing due to an ever increasing scarcity of our precious natural resources its very rewarding to be able to work with and share our Young Farming Champions and our Young Eco Champions and their knowledge diversity and expertise with our school students

Its also very rewarding to be able to provide the schools they visit with the amazing resources our food and  fibre industries are creating to show how farmers are doing their bit and striving to do it better and inspiring the next generation to look beyond their front door and get actively involved as well

Examples of some great industry resources can be found on our web page here

In particular

Target 100 http://www.target100.com.au/Tips-resources

Cotton Australia Education Kit http://cottonaustralia.com.au/uploads/resources/Cotton_Australia_Education_Kit_-_Secondary.pdf

A Wool Growers Guide to Managing Streams and Creeks

http://www.wool.com/Content/en-GB/lww_Rivers_Managing-rivers-creeks-streams.pdf