Sunday, June 21, 2009

What’s the Water Footprint of Your Garden?

We’ve all heard about our Carbon Footprint, now there is information about the “water footprint” of various vegetables and meats. Most of us know we Americans are water guzzlers, using about 100 gallons per day per person.

But out of the 100 gallons a day, how much goes to grow our food? Some of the numbers are startling!

The following figures were derived (thanks to from “Globalization of water: Sharing the planet's freshwater resources”, by Hoekstra, A.Y. and Chapagain, A.K. (2008) Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, UK.

The gallons listed below are the amount of water needed to grow ONE POUND of the food listed. The water is a global average rather than from specific localities.

Fruits, Vegetables and Grains

Lettuce -- 15 gallons

Tomatoes -- 22 gallons

Cabbage -- 24 gallons

Cucumber -- 28 gallons

Potatoes -- 30 gallons

Oranges -- 55 gallons

Apples -- 83 gallons

Bananas -- 102 gallons

Corn -- 107 gallons

Peaches or Nectarines -- 142 gallons

Wheat Bread -- 154 gallons

Mango -- 190 gallons

Avocado -- 220 gallons

Tofu -- 244 gallons

Rice -- 403 gallons

Olives -- 522 gallons

Chocolate -- 2847 gallons

Meat and Dairy

Eggs -- 573 gallons

Chicken -- 815 gallons

Cheese -- 896 gallons

Pork -- 1630 gallons

Butter -- 2044 gallons

Beef -- 2500-5000 gallons

(Global figures for the water intensity of beef vary so significantly that an average isn't particularly informative, so a range of figures is given)

I could not discover if the water usage for a pound of beef included the water to grow the corn fed to beef cattle.

This partial list is only a part of the environmental impact of what we eat. Other factors are fertilizers (and whether organic or conventional), water pollution from run-off, whether our food is local, shipped across the country, or imported, and even farm/food politics.

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