Forget about carbon, should we be calculating our water footprint?

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FORGET your carbon footprint - it’s your water footprint you should worry about:


Prof Tim Lang said people needed to wake up to how much water farmers and food factories use in producing staple goods, particularly meat, coffee and milk, saying the threat to Britain’s food chain from its water footprint is just as great as its carbon footprint.

Can you make a footprint in water?

Prof Lang, who coined the term “food miles” more than a decade ago, now believes that overuse of water is the biggest threat facing Britain’s food chain.

The food miles that mean, er, nothing other than that you should buy local because that supports local people, unless they work in import and export, natch.:

“Huge amounts of water is being used as irrigation or fed directly to animals. It is a nightmare. Water stress is huge across huge swathes of the globe. We think that we are liberally supplied by God’s water. But that’s not true.”

So it’s not raining? And don’t drink from the yellow puddles:

According to the World Wide Fund, the production of a simple pint of milk uses up more than 550 litres (968 pints) of water – the equivalent of running six full baths.

Or it raining for, say, five minutes?

A cut [?] of coffee uses up 140 litres (246 pints), while a hamburger uses an astonishing 1,800 (3,168).

Rain, rain, go away…

These figures take into account the amount of water used from the start to the end of the food chain, including the irrigation on the farm, the processing of the food, such as washing the coffee beans, and the cooking of the product. Meat uses so much because of the water needed to irrigate the crops that end up as animal feed.

Irrigation on the farm? Looks like rain…

“We cannot carry on consuming the same amount of meat and dairy that we do currently. We are convinced about that now. It is absolutely madness.”

Mad cows and Englishmen go out in the noon day rain…

The UK has become the sixth largest net importer of water in the world, the environment group WWF estimates, with every consumer indirectly responsible for the use of thousands of litres a day. Only a third of the UK’s total water use comes from its own resources; the rest depends on the water systems of other countries, some of which are already facing serious shortages.

So it’s not about water -it’s about us having too much water and an advantage when it comes to rearing livestock and growing crops?

…While coffee, African-grown vegetables, milk and meat all use up vast quantities of water, Prof Lang points out that some products are far more “sustainable”, including tea, home-grown apples, porridge and British seafood, such as mussels and oysters.

“I have porridge every morning,” he said.

With milk?


Online Bored chemist

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Two thirds of the earth's surface is coveed by water. We are not going to run out of it any time soon. However almost all that water is too salty for growing crops or drinking.
Given enough energy we can purify water and, in many places, they already do this.
That means that water has a large carbon footprint. You can't address the two problems independently.
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Offline Karsten

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(...)However almost all that water is too salty for growing crops or drinking.(...)

Yes, 96% are too salty, another 2-3% are trapped as sea ice (but seem to be melting and mixing with the salt water). That leaves us with around 1% drinking water. And us civilized people defecate in it!
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