Wasting Food Results in Wasting Water as Well

by Tanya Thomas on Aug 26 2008 10:06 AM

If you thought wasting a little bit of food is no bid deal, think again. According to a new study, not only are you wasting food but you are also wasting lots of water! How? That’s by taking into account all the water that went into the cultivation and processing of food.

According to a report in ENN (Environmental News Network), the study, titled "Saving Water", released by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), found that In the United States, as much as 30 percent of food products, worth some 48.3 billion dollars, is thrown away annually just by households alone.

"That's like leaving the tap running and pouring 40 trillion liters of water into the garbage can -- enough water to meet the household needs of 500 million people," said the report.

Professor John Anthony Allan of King's College, London, the winner of the 2008 Stockholm Water Prize, is the author of a concept called "virtual water", where he argues that people consume water not only when they drink it or take a shower, but also when they consume food products.

The virtual water concept measures water embedded in the production and trade of food and consumer products - from the field and the factory to the dinner table.

A cup of coffee, for example, accounts for about 140 liters of water that is used in growing, producing, packaging and shipping the beans.

One single hamburger accounts for an estimated 2,400 liters of water; one kilogram of beef consumes 15,000 liters of water; a slice of white bread takes in 40 liters of water; and one kilogram of cheese absorbs 5,000 liters of water.

"I was very surprised with the high numbers. But it catches everybody's attention," said Allan.

The figures, according to him, were worked out scientifically by researchers in the Netherlands.

As to if there was a direct link between water and food scarcities, Allan said that while there is a shortage of food in some parts of the world, there is also a need for twice as much food in other parts of the world.

"So, there is a distribution problem. But this also reflects the maldistribution of water," he said.

Meanwhile, a report released by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) says that while each person in Britain drinks, hoses, flushes and washes their way through around 150 liters of water a day, they consume about 30 times as much in "virtual water" embedded in food, clothes and other items - the equivalent of about 58 bathtubs full of water every day.

According to Charlotte de Fraiture, a researcher at IWMI (International Water Management Institute), as much as half of the water used to grow food globally may be lost or wasted.

"Curbing these losses and improving water productivity provides win-win opportunities for farmers, business, ecosystems, and the global hungry," she said.