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12 October 2015  

Calculating the water footprint of food products

The Water Footprint Network recently produced a Product Gallery which demonstrates the average global water footprint of a variety of food products, including fruits, vegetables, meats and grains. Established in 2008, the Water Footprint Network strives to solve the world’s water crises by advancing fair and smart water use. The Network drives innovation and inspires change in order to ensure that fresh water is shared fairly amongst all people to sustain thriving communities and nature’s diversity.

The Product Gallery draws attention to the significant levels of water needed to produce different foods. Chocolate and leather are the most water intensive products with 17,196 and 17,093 litres of water required respectively to produce 1kg of each product. The difference between meat and vegetable production is also noteworthy. One tomato weighing 250 grams requires on average 50 litres of water, 50% of which is green water, 30% of which is blue water and 20% grey water. Meanwhile, pork meat, which accounts for 19% of the total water footprint of animal production in the world, requires on average 5988 litres of water per kg of pork meat produced.

The meat with highest water footprint is beef which requires 15,415 litres of water per kg produced, although this depends largely on the production system from which the beef is derived (grazing, mixed or industrial), the composition of the feed and the origin of the feed, as surprisingly, feed accounts for 99% of the water footprint of beef.

For more information, visit the Water Footprint Network.