Just like a bare foot on a warm, sandy beach, the amount of water we use each day leaves a “mark” on the planet. A water footprint includes the water we use to shower, do laundry, wash our hands, water our flowers, or simply have a glass of water. But one of the largest contributors is our food water footprint–the amount of water it took to produce the food we eat.
Surprisingly, this can be the largest contributor to a person’s water footprint! Curious, I set out to discover how much water was required for common food items such as:
- A cup of coffee
- An egg
- A steak
Thankfully, the Water Footprint Network has already calculated how much water it takes to produce a number of common food items. But their handy tools and calculators allow you to explore other foods you might enjoy. Here are just a few I found:
|Item||Serving Size||Water Footprint|
|Steak||6 oz.||674 gallons|
|Hamburger (w/ bread, meat, tomato, and lettuce)||1 hamburger||660 gallons|
|Eggs||1 egg||52 gallons|
|Salad (tomato, lettuce, cucumbers)||1 medium salad||21 gallons|
|Coffee||8 oz cup||34 gallons|
If these numbers seem huge to you, you’re not alone. But remember, producing meat requires all the water needed for the feed or grains they eat, on top of the water needed for manufacturing. While the exact amount of water will depend on an individual farm’s practices, these numbers reflect averages.
Let’s say today I had a cup of coffee and 3 eggs for breakfast. I had a salad for lunch, and then a hamburger for dinner. That means in one day alone, my food water footprint would be 871 gallons! Expand this diet to a year and I would “consume” over 300,000 gallons of water. If everyone in Osceola County ate this diet for a year, it would require enough water to fill East Lake Toho. And just for one year!
Food Water Footprint Tips
One thing is certain: producing food requires a lot of water. But, why? There are three types of water required when producing food: blue, green, and grey water.
- Blue water is the groundwater or surface water required (e.g. irrigation),
- Green water is the amount of rainfall required (e.g. rain-fed forage like grass)
- Grey water is the water required to dilute wastewater before it is discharged in order to meet water quality standards (e.g. field and farm runoff)
The great news is there are things we can do to decrease our food water footprint. One great strategy is to eat lower on the food chain. But changing your diet can be difficult. Simply being aware and sharing your new-found knowledge with others can make a big difference. It can lead to less food waste and an overall smarter diet.