Food Industry

Published on July 4th, 2009 | by John Chappell


How Food Choices Affect Your Water Footprint

water and food

Eco-conscious and green consumers around the globe are increasingly aware of the carbon footprint of their food choices, but what about the water footprint?

As water becomes an increasingly scarce global resource, the focus turns toward analyzing how much water it takes to grow particular foods.  Increasing awareness of the amount of water various foods require can help consumers make educated choices for the most environmentally conscious products.

Not surprisingly many of the same attributes that make for smart environmentally friendly choices also make sense from a water consumption perspective.  Not eating meat, choosing locally grown organic foods, and growing as much produce as possible in your own backyard are also the best choices for using the least amount of water.

There’s a fantastic Water Footprint website that illustrates the amount of water it takes to grow, process, and transport some of the most common foods.  For instance – it takes 140 liters of water to make just one cup of coffee, 1,000 liters of water to make one liter of milk, and 16,000 liters of water to make one pound of beef.  These are just a few staggering examples of the amount of water resources required for commonly consumed foods.

You can click to check out the Water Footprint website.

The Water Footprint website also illustrates how similar food choices require differing amounts of water to produce.  For example, to produce a kilogram of rice it takes 3,000 liters of water to produce, but a kilogram of wheat takes only 1,350 liters of water.  Does that mean wheat is always a better food choice?  Maybe, but not necessarily.  There are still the factors of location, amount of irrigation vs. natural rainfall, and the distance to transport the food to you, the consumer, to consider.

If nothing else, use the Water Footprint website to begin to think about your own food choices, and how you can bring more sustainable, eco-friendly foods to your table.  If you’re looking for a single, simple step to take to reduce your Water Footprint, try eating vegetarian.

For more water-related information, check out Starbucks: Wasting up to Six Million Gallons of Water Every Day or Water Wise Gardening from other outstanding Eat Drink Better contributors.

Image credit: echiner1 at Wikipedia under a Creative Commons License.

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About the Author

I'm 33, and a Southern Californian by birth and outlook, but recently relocated to the upper Midwest. You can label me an organic farmer trapped in an accountants brain and body, an enthusiastic yet novice urban homesteader, and a vocal supporter of all things organic, local, wholesome, and old-school.

4 Responses to How Food Choices Affect Your Water Footprint

  1. russ says:

    Vegetarian – Yuk! Veggies on the plate are bad enough – if that is all there is then ,like I noted, yuk!

  2. Pingback: How Food Choices Affect Your Water Footprint -

  3. Eating less meat is something everyone can benefit from in multiple ways. It’s better for the planet, cheaper for your budget, and better for your health in many cases. You don’t have to be a strict vegetarian, but limiting your meat consumption is all around a good idea to consider!

  4. Cowman says:

    < Not surprisingly many of the same attributes that <make for smart environmentally friendly choices also <make sense from a water consumption perspective.

    Amazing! There is absolutely NO connection between “smart environmentally friendly choices” and “water consumption perspective”.
    Liberal wacko enviros are stealing water from ag right now for the sake of a non native fish.They are restoring a river that has been dry for decades and taking the water from farmers.

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