We All Drink Downstream

by | Apr 17, 2015

Key Insight

The main reason that coffee should be seen as part of the solution to the coffee crisis is that the alternatives to coffee are far worse.

Last week, SCAA gave me the opportunity to talk about water and coffee at its annual Symposium in Seattle.

For my first contribution to the Coffeelands blog, I want to give a brief synthesis of last week’s presentation, which serves as a great intro to water and the coffeelands.


In 2015, the World Economic Forum highlights water crises among the most critical threats to global economic and social development.

What characterizes the global water crisis is an issue of supply and demand. The demand for water has increased exponentially over the past century as a function of population growth and economic development. At the same time, water supply is diminishing due to land degradation, water contamination, and unsustainable extraction of groundwater.

A main driver for the water crisis is agriculture. Agriculture is by far the single biggest user of water resources: 70-80% of water used by humans is for irrigation and agriculture is the single biggest threat to water resources due to (a) land degradation and (b) contamination from soil erosion, fertilizers and pesticides.