Water Used in Food Production

Posted August 29th, 2017

How Much Water Is Really Used In Food And Beverage Production?

People concerned about their water footprint often make an effort to turn the faucet off quickly, take shorter showers, and cut back on watering the lawn.

While these efforts are important, they ignore one of the biggest water-use culprits found in virtually every household: food and beverages.

The production of food and beverages is a water-intensive process. According to the Water Footprint Network, a single apple requires an average of 33 gallons of water to grow. Here’s what other common food and beverage products cost in terms of water consumption according to the Water Footprint Network.

Beef: Beef is one of the biggest water-use culprits in the food industry, and is one of largest amongst meat products, utilizing an average of 1,845 gallons of water per pound of beef produced. Ninety-nine percent of the water used is for animal feed, with the remaining 1 percent coming from drinking and service water.

Coffee: Another big hitter for water use in the food and beverage industry is coffee.

To create one pound of coffee beans it requires 2,264 gallons of water. This means that the average cup of coffee, using .24 ounces of coffee beans, requires 34 gallons of water to produce.

Pork: The production of meat from pigs uses a global average of 717 gallons of water per pound. From 1996 to 2005 the global water footprint for pigs accounted for 19 percent of the total water footprint of animal production in the world.

Wine & Beer: To produce one gallon of wine requires 870 gallons of water. When looking at this fact from a standard serving size perspective, 34 gallons of water are needed for 5 fluid ounces of wine.  In France, Italy, and Spain, the largest wine producing countries in the world, the average water footprint of wine is 24, 24, and 52 gallons per glass of wine, respectively.

However when beer production uses 296 gallons of water per gallon of beer, requiring an average of 28 gallons of water for 12 fluid ounces of beer.

Bread: Bread created from wheat flour has a global average footprint of 218 gallons of water per pound. Most of that water use, about 80 percent, is due to the flour that is derived from the wheat, so the exact water footprint of bread depends on the origin of the wheat and how it was grown. From 1996 to 2005, global wheat production contributed 15 percent to the total water footprint of crop production in the world.

Citrus and Stone Fruits: On average the global water footprint per pound are as follows: 67 gal./lb for oranges, 61 gal./lb for grapefruit, and 77 gal./lb for lemons.  A single orange requires approximately 21 gallons of water to produce. Orange juice comes at a higher water cost, utilizing 122 gallons of water to produce one gallon of orange juice.
Plums require 261 gal./lb, apricots 154 gal./lb. and peaches 109 gal./lb. Apples, bananas, grapes, and kiwis all take less than 100 gal./lb. Strawberries, pineapple, and watermelon require less than 50 gallons of water per pound of fruit.

Potato: The global average water footprint of a potato is 34 gallons per pound. China, the largest potato producing country in the world, contributed 22 percent to the total water footprint of potato production in the world.

Source: KLa Systems

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