Water, water, everywhere…

By Alan Lugton, Cookery Manager

I have always regarded myself as “well hydrated”; drinking my recommended 6-8 glasses of water, but when I was informed that the average person consumes 3,496 litres of water – everyday, I felt slightly inadequate, to say the least.

Suddenly my mouth became very dry and I poured myself another glass of cool refreshing aqua vitae. However I wasn’t dehydrated, I was suffering a severe case of incredulity. Who can possibly consume that much water in one day?  Apparently we all do!

Let’s start with the obvious. The amounts of water we consume on a daily basis just living our lives around the home when we shower, wash clothes, do the dishes and cook our food use an average of 137 litres per day. However the virtual water we use by the production of industrial items like clothes and paper amounts to 167 Litres per day.

All this is a drop in the ocean compared to the huge amounts of water we use in the production of food we eat, and I’m not just talking about boiling an egg.

So how is virtual water [i]calculated?  Using data produced by The Water Footprint Network Angela Morelli explains beautifully in her interactive infographic the amount of water it takes to make 200kg of beef. Through examining the lifespan of a cow, the food it eats, how it is slaughtered and processed we can see an astonishing 3,091,000 litres goes into the beef. That’s nearly 3,500 litres just to produce an 8oz steak dinner.

The impact of the water message is daunting and one which at first is difficult to make sense of until you realise that the water used in processing the foods for our diet, deprives other parts of the world of available water to irrigate crops during times of drought. It is enough to make you feel helpless to do anything about, but rest assured, there are things you can do. Small changes like having a meat free day will reduce your water consumption for that day by half, but if that’s too much you can choose to eat meat that has been reared on grass feed and less intensive methods. As with all food there is a strong message not to be wasteful, perhaps thinking about the hidden water involved in producing the food you are about to throw in the bin may give you pause for thought.

[i] A termed coined by Prof. Tony Allan. The concept of virtual water helps us realize how much water is needed to produce the
goods we use and the food we eat.

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