How much water does it take to produce your food?

You may buy organic and local but have you ever considered the water footprint of your food?

The water footprint is a measure of humanity’s appropriation of fresh water in volumes of water consumed and/or polluted.

All figures quoted come from Treehugger unless otherwise stated. They represent the number of gallons of water consumed to produce one pound of food.

Vegetables

Vegetarians you know you live the virtuous life! But actually not all vegetables are created equal when it comes to the water needed to grow them.

  • Lettuce – 15 gallons
  • Tomatoes – 22 gallons
  • Cabbage – 24 gallons
  • Cucumber – 28 gallons
  • Potatoes – 30 gallons
  • Oranges – 55 gallons
  • Apples – 83 gallons
  • Bananas – 102 gallons
  • Corn – 107 gallons
  • Peaches & nectarines – 142 gallons
  • Wheat bread – 154 gallons
  • Mango – 190 gallons
  • Avocado – 220 gallons
  • Tofu – 244 gallons
  • Peanuts – 368 gallons
  • Rice – 403 gallons
  • Olives – 522 gallons – In fairness it would take you a while to eat a pound of olives
  • Chocolate – 2847 gallons

Meat

This is where the numbers get scary. An animal has to eat, drink and pollute for many months before it makes it to our plates.

  • Eggs – 573 gallons – Lots of eggs to the pound
  • Chicken – 815 gallons
  • Cheese – 896 gallons
  • Pork – 1630 gallons
  • Butter – 2044 gallons
  • Beef – 2500-5000 gallons – Water consumption in beef production varies dramatically around the world so a range is given.

Drink

Figures represent the number of gallons of water needed to produce 8oz.

  • Tea – 7 gallons
  • Coffee – 29 gallons
  • Beer – 36 gallons
  • Milk – 48 gallons
  • Wine – 58 gallons

We all have to eat, and we need a variety of foods. Water is just one factor to take into account when trying to make greener food choices. The good news is that water-friendly choices are usually also the healthier choices.

Food is only one aspect of your water footprint. If you want to find out more try the personal water footprint calculator.

Health warning about stats in this article

Treehugger claim to base their figures on the data on Waterfootprint.org but my data analysis skills are sadly too rudimentary to delve the depths of the spreadsheets to verify this, so I’ve taken it on trust. If you want to check for yourself, knock yourself out!

Water consumption in food production varies from place to place and the above figures are a rough international guide only but hopefully they’re close enough to give us an idea of how various food stuffs compare.

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