Low or No-Meat Diets Can Reduce European Water Footprints, Says Study

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It takes about 728 gallons (2,757 liters) of water to produce the food an average British person eats every day. This comes a new study conducted by European Commission entitled, “The water footprint of different diets within European sub-national geographical entities.” Food generally comprises the largest part of a person’s water footprint, and meat makes up an outsize part of that water footprint.

The study calculates the amount of water required to grow and process food for the United Kingdom, Germany and France. The authors first collected existing data on the water footprint of certain foods and beverages, which were then joined with census data for regions within the countries, and finally local culture and eating habits were calculated to provide food in each region and how it can can be reduced. The average water footprint for a German is 774 gallons (2,929 liters) while France’s is 1020 gallons (3,861 liters). The average water footprint for an American is a staggering 2,378 gallons (more than 9,000 liters).

Because meat-eating has such a big water footprint, the study used different dietary scenarios that meant eating less meat. By adopting a “healthy meat” diet, water footprints could be reduced up to 35 percent, while a fish-meat only diet could reduce one’s water footprint by 55 percent, which is the same reduction found for a vegetarian diet.

One salient reasons for the variation between the three countries were that the French drink more wine, as compared to Germans and the British, both of whom drink more beer, a beverage that has a smaller water footprint.

[The Conversation]
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