Access to water is ultimately what makes farmland attractive to foreign investors. The large-scale commercial farming that typically characterizes foreign investment in agriculture implies the need for vast amounts of water for crop irrigation or livestock production. Yet, with all the focus on “land grabbing” and food security, the related water issues tend to become an afterthought. Indeed, water is taken for granted until the supply is strained or completely depleted.
In the context of farmland investments, both the quantity and quality of water inputs are important, and have implications for users. In terms of volume, it is well established that about 70 per cent of all freshwater extraction is used for agricultural production. However the value of this water has yet to be fully understood or appreciated—either as an agricultural input or vis-à-vis other residential, industrial or environmental uses. In terms of quality, the chemicals from pesticides and fertilizers used in agricultural production directly affect the water resources available for others. Interconnected and in constant motion, water resources are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of farmland investment.