WATER WASTE AND WASTE'S WATER... a word's game to highlight the two reasons why we face the theme of water.


  • The first one is that wasting food means wasting the water used to produce it and knowing the amount of "invisible" water contained in the food we throw away could prevent us from wasting it.


For instance, if people knew that we need 15,000 liters of water to produce one kilogram of beef, they would put an effort into not throwing the leftover meat and they could reuse it to cook meatballs, meatloaf or any other recipe they may invent.


  • The second reason is that it doesn’t make sense to worry about closing the tap water when we brush our teeth (saving a few liters of water) and then be indifferent to the enormous water consumption caused by our food choices (thousands of liters a day).

Going back to the previous example, knowing the surprising data of the "virtual" water  contained in a pound of meat could lead some people to eat less meat and others to avoid it completely.


Making the way we relate to food sustainable doesn’t mean only battling waste, but also choosing a diet that involves a withdrawal of water resources compatible with their specific availability.


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The water that is gone


Water Footprint


The world is thirsty because it is hungry








The water that is gone



The most recent annual reports of the World Economic Forum show that, in the rank of global risks, the water crisis always ranks high in terms of probability of occurrence and severity of its possible effects.


This prediction was recently confirmed by two of the world's leading experts of hydrological systems (Mekonnen and Hoekstra) in a study that shows that water scarcity is a problem widely underestimated. In fact, today there are about 4 billion people already suffering from lack of water for at least one month a year, while 1.8 billion have to deal with drought for at least six months a year.


The question we must answer is why does water start to run low in larger and larger areas of the world, despite the water cycle on the planet should ensure a balanced water budget between water output and input?



11 foto acqua tra terra mare e cielo ecco il ciclo dellacqua

From “Water stories” -  © Sanpellegrino 2016 




There are two answers






Water Footprint


“The water footprint of a product is the volume of freshwater used to produce it, measured along the different steps of its supply chain.”


The concept of water footprint is an indicator referring to water use in consumer goods. The concept is similar to the ecological footprint and carbon footprint but, instead of soil consumption and use of fossil energy, it refers to water.


Contrary to our common sense, however, the water is not all the same. There are three types of water involved in the production of agri-food goods (and not) and entering the water footprint calculation.


The colours of water

The blue water is the water of the lakes, rivers and underground aquifers. It can be derived from renewable sources that are recharged by rainfall and snowmelt or groundwater can be extracted from non-renewable fossil aquifers. It is easy to access and transport and can be measured, contained in dams, stored, pumped in water networks to meet the needs of different sectors (agricultural, industrial and domestic). Globally, 70% of this water is used for irrigation (FAO - AQUASTAT), but in some countries, even very dry (as Middle East or North Africa), this water use can exceed 90% of total consumption.


The green water is rain or snowy water that does not become blue water, as it evaporates or it is transpired by the plants. It is almost exclusively used in agriculture and it meets the requirement for an 84% stake.


The grey water is "polluted" water, used to dilute contaminants in the production process and it is not reusable. So, it is not a source of water for human use.


The water footprint of a product is a geographically sensitive and explicit concept, it let us measure the consumption of water needed to produce a good in different geographical areas. For a same food product, in fact, the water footprint varies greatly from place to place, depending on factors such as climate, agricultural techniques adopted, the yield of crops, the abundant availability of rainwater or the need to use water irrigation, ecc.


The sustainability of the water samples required to produce a food is very different depending on where and how this food is produced, because the amount of water needed to produce may not be the only variable, but also the "quality" of ' water used (if blue or green) and the possibility that it is subtracted (in a situation of poor overall availability) to main uses (in particular for domestic use).


The example of an orange (litres per orange 200 grams)

Water  Italy  Morocco  Spain
 green litres 56,8 litres 44,4  litres 44,6
 blue litres 8,2 litres 59 litres 32
 grey litres 9,8 litres 7 litres 11
 Total litres
 74,8  110,4  87,6





The concept of virtual water is essential, not only to understand our dependence on hydrological systems, although very far from us, but also to understand the impact that our lives, our daily decisions and activities have on them.
First you must have an idea of how big is our water footprint and what depends.






 The world is thirsty because it is hungry


wwd 2012 rice cultivation

"The world is thirsty because it is hungry" is the slogan chosen by FAO to express the existing indissoluble link between the water consumption and the production of food and which adapts equally well to the connection between the availability of water resources and food habits.


In fact, our food choices lead to quite unsustainable water withdrawals and, if we want to reduce our water footprint, the best thing to do is to take a critical look at what we eat instead of water consumption in the kitchen, in the bathroom or in the garden.


Wasting water has never sense and then saving it whenever you can is definitely recommended, but if we limit ourselves to a reduction in domestic consumption we will not be able to have some positive influence on the serious water problems that plague the world.

 © UN Photo/John Isaac, Women cultivating rice in Palung, Nepal





So what?




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Download our free application UBO_App, search a good opportunity on


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You can find more than 500 foods, their water footprint, leftover recipes, you can make the shopping list and many other things.




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