A new study concludes that vegetarian diets substantially reduce water consumption, regardless of region. In the EU, the consumption of agricultural products constitutes 89 percent of the total water ‘footprint’, which accounts for 4265 lcd (litres per person per day) out of a total of 4815 lcd. This illustrates the substantial influence diet has on water consumption, a major concern in times of globally declining water resources.
The study examined the effects of diet on water consumption levels in different geographical regions of Europe, taking into account each area’s diet. For each, the water footprints of three different diets were calculated: the current diet in the region, a healthy diet and a vegetarian diet, which is based on a healthy diet with meat substituted with other sources of protein. The results show that the vegetarian diets achieve the highest water footprint reductions, with a drop of between 27 percent and 41 percent depending on region. The healthy diet also resulted in lower water consumption levels, from 3 percent to 30 percent.
This study demonstrates that the reduction of meat, sugar and oil consumption in a diet can significantly lower a person’s water footprint, even when regional differences are taken into account. The researchers note that the calculation might even be an underestimation of current water consumption levels, as the water footprint estimates for fish are not available and could not be included.