The Most Precious Resource of All – Save Food, Save Water

Our world and our societies are water‐hungry. The fulfillment of basic human needs, the environment, socio-economic development and poverty reduction are all dependent on water. With the world population expected to grow from a little over 7 billion today to 8 billion by 2025, water withdrawals are expected to increase by 50 percent in developing countries and by 18 percent in developed countries.

“Water is central to the well‐being of people and the planet," Secretary‐General Ban Ki‐moon said in his video message for the International Year of Water Cooperation 2013. "We must work together to protect and carefully manage this fragile, finite resource."

Water is fundamentally important for food and agriculture, and is the basic ingredient of life: one can survive for eight to ten days without food but without water, for not more than two days. Despite the fact that our body is made up of 2/3 of water, the food we eat consumes even more water than we do. Water for irrigation and food production constitutes one of the greatest pressures on freshwater resources. Although the earth has 1.4 billion cubic kilometers of water, less than 1 percent is accessible for human consumption, and 70 percent of that is used for agricultural purposes. Couple that with recent droughts in certain parts of the world, most notably in the African Sahel, and the urgency for action to safeguard water resources is clear.

“Freshwater resources are essential for agriculture to sustain the world population with adequate and nutritious food. However, all too often this precious and frequently limited resource is not equally shared between all those who need it, but is rather distributed according to who can afford to pay the most,” said Paul Juan, a food security activist. Water is an essential part of our daily lives in many more ways than we realize – in fact every product we use every day has used water in its production, transport and packaging before it reaches you.

So just how much water does it take to get my food to me?
Lots of the crops we eat get their water from rainwater but in some areas, and at certain times of the year, there isn’t enough, so the water is topped up with water from rivers, reservoirs and from deep underground. Crops are also grown to feed the animals we eat, which means more water is used in the production of meat and dairy products than foods like vegetables and wheat.

As water supplies face mounting pressures from growing populations, climate change, and an already troubled food system, analyses of “water wealth” and “water security” are laying the groundwork for future cooperation and stability. In order to meet all the agricultural and ecological demands for water, it is crucial to develop innovative water saving systems for the future of food production.

Guide to how much water is wasted when we waste food
In honour of this important anniversary, we would like to shed light on how much water is wasted when we waste food:

2,310 litres of water are used to produce one piece of steak (150g) [15,400 litre/kg] – leftover cooked meat keeps for up to two days in the fridge, and can be frozen for another time or used in a delicious sandwich for lunch the next day.

1,286 litres of water are used to make one standard loaf of bread (800g) [1,608 litre/kg] – why not split your loaf and put half in the freezer and try toasting from frozen.

1,271 litres of water are used to make a standard sized pack of cheese (400g) [3,178 litre/kg] – when you’ve opened it, keep it well wrapped or in an air-tight container in the fridge. Don’t forget you can safely eat cheese after its best before date.

1,259 litres of water are used to make one margarita pizza – keep an eye on the date label and if you’re not going to eat it before it goes past the ‘use by’ date, pop it in the freezer to enjoy another time.

649 litres of water are used to produce one chicken breast (150g) [4,325 litre/kg] - why not save yourself time later by cooking it all and freezing the extra portion for another time.

196 litres of water are used to produce one egg (60g) – keep yours in the fridge, and if you cook it thoroughly you can use it up to two days after the ‘best before’.

160 litres of water are used to produce one banana – if yours are looking a bit soft, mash bananas on toast with a sprinkle of cinnamon for a delicious breakfast.

125 litres of water are used to produce one apple – keep yours in the fridge, in the loosely tied bag to make it last for longer.

125 litres of water are used to produce a single portion of rice (50g) [2,497 litre/kg] – use scales or a mug to measure out rice when you cook it, and if you’ve cooked too much, cool it quickly, put it into an air-tight container in the fridge and use it the next day.

50 litres of water are used to produce one tomato (250g) – keep yours in the fridge, and if you’ve got too many, puree them and freeze them to use in soups and sauces.

Read more on Love Food Hate Waste

Partners and Supporters