Water Footprint of Food

Did you know?

Tossing out food is clearly a waste of money — and maybe even immoral, as some may likened food waste to "stealing from the table of those who are poor and hungry”. You also may be creating extra greenhouse gas emissions by sending food to a landfill. Now comes yet another reason not to waste food: It also wastes a lot of water. According to the World Resources Institute, an environmental think tank, inside the 1.3 billion tons of food wasted every year worldwide is 45 trillion gallons of water. The volume of water that goes into making our food is astonishing. While that water is not lost to the water cycle, it’s often lost from the watershed—and sometimes transferred virtually or directly to different locations—where it was used for food production or polluted from unsustainable agricultural practices.

water footprint of food

As global population and prosperity grows, more people in rapidly developing countries like China, India, and Brazil will be eating more food—and more water-intensive food—just like Americans. As this trend increases, there is greater demand on water resources from other big water use sectors like energy and public drinking water supplies, not to mention greater variability in precipitation due to climate. By 2030, projections from the US National Intelligence Council suggest that a world of approximately 9 billion people will require 35 percent more water, 40 percent more energy, and 50 percent more food. Estimates from another report expect that by 2030 close to half of the world’s population will live in water-stressed areas for at least part of the year.