JOURNAL MONITOR EDITION 2 : OIL PALM’S WATER FOOTPRINT: AN EVIDENCE ISNT A WATER-WASTEFUL PLANT
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Water-wasteful is a negative perception and stigma that attached to this plant. After being accused of being the cause of deforestation, now oil palm also considered not environmental friendly because they are considered as plants that threaten the availability of water in an area and potentially cause an area to become a desert. To find out whether the hoax or the accusation issue is proven to be true or false, it is important to examine various research results related to the comparison of consumptive water needs between oil palm and other plants.
Coster (1938) used an evapotranspiration indicator to examined the water needs of plants. Based on the results, oil palm only needs 1,104 mm per year. This number is lower than bamboo, lamtoro, acacia, sengon, pine and rubber with a range of water needs reached 1,300-3,000 mm per year. Percentage of rainfall used by Pasaribu et al, (2012) as an approach to determine water needs in plants. The research showed that the percentage of rainfall used by oil palm was also lower than that of mahogany and pine.
This fact is also confirmed by the results of a research by Makonnen & Hoekstra (2010) which shows that water consumption needed by palm oil globally is only 2 percent and most of it comes from green water or rainwater. While cereal crops (such as wheat, rice, corn) and soybeans have a water footprint percentage ranging from 5-15 percent.
Associated with its role as a feedstock of renewable energy source (biodiesel), palm oil is also classified as the most water-efficient plant. Gerbens-Leenes et al., (2009) stated that palm oil required an average of 75 m3 of water to produce each Giga Joule (GJ) of bioenergy. Makonnen & Hoekstra (2010) also re-measured the water needs of palm oil only 5.166 liters of water to produce 1 liter of biodiesel for only and lower than the needs of water of coconut, rapeseed, and soybeans.
This fact shows that palm is not a water-wasteful plant, oil palm can be classified as the plants that are relatively efficient in water consumption compared with other forestry plant and other feedstock and does not exploit ground water or surface water.