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How Your Food Choices Affect Your Water Footprint

A water footprint is the measurement of freshwater used to create a product we consume. It could be through an item or service. It is measured in cubic meters of water per tonne of production, litres per kilogram, or gallons per pound. It allows individuals, companies, and governments to keep track of how much water they are using.

The water footprint works through two processes

  • Direct water footprint

In our daily lives, we are more accustomed to the direct water footprint. It is the estimation of water that we use directly to fulfil our everyday tasks, such as the amounts of water we use to take a flush down a toilet, cook, fuel our vehicle, do laundry, and more.

  • Indirect water footprint

Almost all activities in our lives require the use of water, even without us visibly using it. We often use more water indirectly than direct. It is the measurement of water taken to create goods or products that we purchase and use, such as the amount of water it takes to engineer the public transportation that takes you from one place to another, the books you read, your electronics, and many more.

There are three components of water footprint:

Green water footprint is water from precipitation that is stored in the root zone of the soil and evaporated, transpired or incorporated by plants. It is particularly relevant for agricultural, horticultural and forestry products.

Blue water footprint is water that has been sourced from surface or groundwater resources and is either evaporated, incorporated into a product or taken from one body of water and returned to another, or returned at a different time. Irrigated agriculture, industry and domestic water use can each have a blue water footprint.

Grey water footprint is the amount of fresh water required to assimilate pollutants to meet specific water quality standards. The grey water footprint considers point-source pollution discharged to a freshwater resource directly through a pipe or indirectly through runoff or leaching from the soil, impervious surfaces, or other diffuse sources.

Water Footprint: Why it matters?

Fun fact! Did you know that your morning cup of coffee contains 140 litres of water?


As an indicator of the amount of water used, water footprint is vital as it shows how efficiently the water was used throughout its full production cycle. Therefore, we need to measure our water footprint and apply every necessary step to keep our water footprint as low as possible.

Water is a global resource

When we are aware of our water footprint, it urges us to think about our water consumption, even the one that might happen at a distance. In addition, we are also admitting that water scarcity is no longer a local issue, but it is, in fact, a global issue.

It urges change in some business models

With water footprint, human consumption models that are based on raw materials sourced from water-scarce regions can be easily detected. Thus, it encourages companies to explore how to make their supply chains more sustainable in terms of water use.

How Do We Reduce Water Footprint?

Direct Water Footprint

  1. Install water-saving appliances and devices inside of our own house, such as using a water-saving showerhead.

  2. Don't forget to turn off the tap while you’re brushing your teeth.

  3. Never dispose of polluting substances like medicines, paints, or other things down the sink.

  4. Stick to showers than the bathtub and impose a shorter time using it.

Indirect Water Footprint

  1. Consume fewer animal products and meat.

  2. We can start to consume less water-intensive foods and beverages.

  3. Minimize the use of harmful chemicals for personal care and cleaning.

  4. Try to reuse more products as much as you can, therefore start to buy for the quality, not the quantity.

The Water Footprint of Food

When was the last time you checked the water footprint of something you ate?

According to researchers, the food industry has the highest use of water. It differentiates within distinct food groups and is composed of many markets. It includes agriculture (raising of crops, livestock, and seafood), manufacturing (could be with the use of machinery), food processing, marketing, regulation, and services.

Does Being Vegan Save More Water?

The answer is YES! By being vegan, you definitely can save more water. Do you know that beef and red meat are some of the most water-intensive proteins? Because it needs 15,000 liters of water per kg to produce. Research shows by switching to a more plant-based diet could reduce our water footprint in half. Therefore, by changing our eating habits of eating red meat and beef, we can start eating other intensive proteins like beans, lentils, and peas as a substitute to help preserve the world’s water.

  • Farming of animals and plants accounts for about 70% of the water used in the world today. Up to 92% of that water is freshwater, with nearly one-third of that related to animal farming and growing crops to feed the animals.

  • 98% of the total volume of water in animal agriculture is used to only feed the animals. About one-third of the world’s grain and 80% of the world's soya is fed to the animals in farms.

  • Eutrophication, a type of water pollution, can be caused by intensive animal farming.

  • It takes approximately 3,000 liters of water to produce one 200g beef burger. That amount of water equates to 30 x 5-minute showers. Therefore, 1x 200g beef burger = 30x5-minute of showers.

  • Joseph Poore of the University of Oxford said that “Vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce our impact on planet earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use, and water use. A vegan diet is far more impactful than cutting down our flights or buying an electric car.”

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