World Water Day: What’s the water footprint of our food waste?

Sunday was World Water Day so at Bristol Skipchen we’re thinking about the journey of water in our food system and the water footprint of the food on our table.

Water is inextricably entwined in every process of the food system.

Whether its the rain allowing our crops to bloom, the irrigation of rivers for rice paddies, agricultural runoff polluting our river systems, the water used to transport food across the globe, the water used to manufacture packaging or the water we use to wash food during prep and cooking.

Every time we waste food, we waste water.

The water footprint of UK food waste:

Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) published a report in 2011 quantifying the water footprint of UK’s household food waste.

They found that the water footprint of avoidable household food waste represents 6% of the UK’s water requirements, and that 71% of avoidable food waste in the UK is imported.

Not only is imported food more water intensive than crops grown in the UK but the majority of our imported food is grown in regions experiencing water scarcity and high water stress.

The top countries in the UK’s external agricultural footprint include Brazil, Ghana, India, Spain, Ivory Coast, Indonesia, France and the USA.

India, Thailand and Spain are examples of countries experiencing high water stress and where the external water footprint of UK’s household food waste is very high.

The hidden socio-environmental costs of our wasteful food system:

When we think about responsibility and sustainable food production, it’s not just about the water intensity of the crops we grow but also the context of that water use.

We need to think about the socio-environmental impacts our food (and food waste ) has on local communities, the impacts on the local watershed, whether it increases droughts, reduces drinking water, or contributes to famine and climate change.

Finally, we need to question why our current food system facilitates waste in so many forms on such a large scale and why we are compromising the watersheds of vulnerable countries so we have the privilege to eat and discard out of season crops.





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