s your diet using more water than it should? If you’re in the States and eat a lot of beef, almonds, walnuts, cashews, lemon juice, avocado, asparagus, broccoli and cauliflower, then, yes.
A new study published in Nature Food shows people eating a diet like this are responsible for almost 40 per cent of the country’s water usage for food production.
It’s an important issue given that the UN says freshwater available in the world has gone down by more than 20 per cent, per person, over the last 20 years. It’s a precious resource – less than one per cent of water on earth is fresh and usable. And 41 per cent of the water we use is not sustainable – in other words it can’t be replenished.
The new study Individual US diets show wide variation in water scarcity footprints says agriculture accounts for 80 per cent of global freshwater consumption, so this impact should be a key consideration of sustainable diets.
“Swap in peanuts and sunflower seeds, peas, chicken and soybeans”
It creates a water scarcity footprint measuring the water-use of US diets, and taking into account regional variations in water scarcity.
The researchers recommend swapping out high water usage foods with others like peanuts and sunflower seeds, peas, brussels sprouts, cabbage and kale, and replacing some beef with chicken, pork or soybeans.
The study looked at the irrigation water demands of 160 crops, taking into account natural water scarcity. It then created a water scarcity footprint for each crop.
The individual crop footprints were aggregated and linked to the diets of 16,800 Americans, from the federal National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
Understanding the water usage needed for food, along with carbon footprint and soil quality, is important when looking at the environmental impact of food choices.