Water footprint of our daily food intake

In my post on the water footprint of red meat versus low flow shower heads I asked if anyone wanted to know any other footprints. The answer was yes I want to know more about the footprint of other sources of protein, the footprint of other food stuffs and also the impact of beer. So here it is, the water footprint of various food stuffs per serve, per calorie and also per protein.

We all need to eat and as the red meat lobbyists tell us it is important to get our daily intake of nutrients. So what is the most water efficient food to eat to get our recommended daily calories and protein?

Well, it does bring up some surprising and also not so surprising results.

The table below shows the ranking of various food stuffs from 1 – the most water inefficient to 20 the most water efficient, ie the food stuffs at the bottom of the table need less water to produce a serve, or calorie or a gram of protein.

Water per Serve Water per Serve              (ml / serve) Water per Calorie Water per Protein Water to Provide Calories and Protein Daily Intake
1 chocolate 1720 coffee wine wine
2 beef 1542 beef coffee coffee
3 lamb 1041 lamb butter butter
4 pork 599 chicken chocolate beef
5 chicken 433 chocolate banana chocolate
6 coffee 250 eggs orange lamb
7 eggs 196 pork beer chicken
8 pasta 185 milk pork eggs
9 bread 161 orange rice pork
10 cheese 127 wine beef milk
11 banana 119 tea chicken orange
12 wine 109 banana cabbage banana
13 orange 90 bread eggs tea
14 beer 74 butter pasta beer
15 butter 56 cheese lamb bread
16 potato 52 rice bread cheese
17 cabbage 32 pasta potato rice
18 milk 31 beer cheese pasta
19 tea 27 potato milk cabbage
20 rice 12 cabbage potato

The water footprint data for litres per kg of food comes from the waterfootprintnetwork and the serve size and nutritional values come from various nutritionists sites.

The surprising one for me was seeing chocolate as being the worst food stuff in terms of water footprint, the size of the drop off from the red meats to pork and then to chicken was greater than I thought – chicken is less than a third of the water use than beef.

The last column calculates the most water efficient food stuff to deliver the recommended daily intake of calories and protein. This is where the not so surprising facts are, the most water efficient way of getting our daily intake of calories and protein is a good staple vegetarian diet of potato, cabbage, pasta, rice, cheese, bread and luckily beer!

The food stuff to avoid if you want to be water conscious – this is the bad news – wine, coffee, beef, chocolate and lamb!  There goes Sam Kekovich’s Australia Day.

2 Comments on “Water footprint of our daily food intake”

  1. phew got confused there with the water and wine.
    so are you saying that wine making uses more water than other things?
    i’m confused.

  2. Pingback: What is sustainability – water use in energy generation « SIMON WILD

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