Tasty Bites to Hidden Water: Unravelling Food’s Liquid Secrets


When we think of food, our minds drift to the scrumptious tastes we adore—the irresistible aroma of hot chocolate, the deliciousness of pizza, and the sweetness of doughnuts. We also fondly recall those homemade meals, either from our pursuit of a healthy lifestyle or nostalgic memories of childhood.

But have you ever pondered the relationship between the water you drink and the food you eat? Ever considered how essential water is, not just for quenching thirst but for growing and cooking your favourite meals?

World Food Day Insights

Let’s spill the beans! Today is World Food Day, celebrated every year on October 16th. This day commemorates the establishment of the Food and Agriculture Organisation in 1945. The focus? Recognizing the organisation’s tireless efforts towards achieving zero hunger worldwide.

The 2023 theme for World Food Day is ‘Water is Life, Water is Food. Leave No One Behind.’ This theme underscores water’s crucial role in sustaining life and its intertwined relationship with our food sources.

Decoding the Water Footprint 

You might be wondering, “What’s a water footprint?” Simply put, it’s the amount of water consumed during any process or activity. For food, it’s the volume of water needed from the farm to your table. Unsurprisingly, the more complex the food item, the larger its water footprint. For instance, animal products like meat and eggs gulp down vast amounts of water, leading them to have a higher water footprint. This unseen water consumption is often termed as “virtual waters.”


Let’s dive deeper:

  • Blue Water Footprint: Refers to the surface and groundwater, primarily for crop irrigation.
  • Green Water Footprint: The rainwater used. In terms of food, think of dry farming where crops rely solely on rain.
  • Grey Water Footprint: The freshwater needed to neutralise pollutants, ensuring the water meets EPA quality standards. With food, think of runoff from farms or leached substances from the soil.

A Splash of Curiosity

Dive into our illustrative chart below, which showcases the water footprints of not just food items but also everyday non-food items. These figures offer a general perspective, influenced by factors like regional variations and farming methods. 

To toggle between food and non-food items, simply click on the down arrow located at the top left corner of the chart

It’s a revelation to see how both our meals and daily products consume vast amounts of water. Recognizing this interplay can inspire more mindful choices in our daily lives. So, each time you indulge in a treat or use a household product, remember the hidden water costs behind them.

Shrinking Your Water Footprint!

Our dietary choices dominate our personal water footprints. Wasting food isn’t just a loss of a meal—it’s a squandering of all the resources, especially water, that went into producing it.

Plant-based diets, interestingly, are water savers. The Water Footprint Network found that these diets can slash water use by up to 55%. But there are exceptions, like the thirsty almond. With agriculture draining 70% of the world’s freshwater—most of it gulped by meat and dairy—it’s clear that our food choices matter. Embrace a diet that’s water-wise, choose local products, and curb food waste.

Furthermore, the data suggests non-food items can be thirstier than our meals. Rethinking how we use these items is another step towards water conservation.

Remember, conserving water isn’t just an environmental act—it’s a step towards ensuring no one goes hungry. This World Food Day, let’s pledge to be mindful of our water usage.

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