Not many people see gallons and gallons of water when they think about their consumables. However, in order for virtually every single piece of food and beverage item to be grown and created, water is used (maybe not Twinkies).
There are many steps that it takes to produce something. Whether it is a pear or beer, each product goes through stages to get to its end result. And these stages require water.
We listed a few popular items and how much water is used for them to be produced. Produce is a major factor in heightening of the water crisis, so it is important to know everything that is in our food, and what goes into it. This way, we can reduce our water use in other ways to make up for our grocery list.
Beer is a liquid that started as hops. It had to get from a solid to a liquid somehow, and water helps complete the job. Not only is the brewing process responsible for the amount of water in beer, but so is the cleaning process.
Water is used for:
The brewing process start to finish.
Cleaning all of the machinery and to sanitize all of the packaging.
Creating packaging used during the production processes, such as when creating the cardboard box or the glasses or cans.
All of this adds up to about 20 gallons of water per pint of beer.
The good news is breweries are working towards a future where beer can be brewed with less water. Although craft breweries have been taking the lead, even giant MillerCoors was inspired by the California drought to brew their brews with less water. They believe that it is easy to reduce water during the process, so much that they reduced their water usage by 26 percent in the last five years. One change was removing the old conveyer belts that had to be constantly washed down with plastic ones, that the bottles won’t stick to.
Bread itself requires water directly in the recipe, so the start of the water use begins where the recipe begins. The flour in the recipe is created from wheat, and wheat needs water to grow. Water is also required In order to transport all of the ingredients because of the fuel the shipping vehicles use. Most bread in our supermarkets is processed in a large facility, the machinery itself adds to the water use. Alike to the breweries, food factories must wash down their machinery.
Because of all of the uses that bread has for water, it takes about 150 gallons to produce one loaf of bread.
One solution a buyer can make is either making their own bread or purchasing small-batch bread. As suggested by Sustainable Food Trust, local, organic, sourdough bread is one of the more sustainable breads you could buy on the market.
Growing rice requires a large amount of water. The fields need to be watered and the rice, washed down. All of this use of water from the farm to the factory makes rice’s water footprint a whopping 449 gallons per pound of rice.
**This translates to about 225 gallons of water used per cup of rice, since there are about 2 cups of uncooked rice per pound. **
Rice also absorbs a large amount of water when you cook it, and that absorption factor is not even counted in the above number and it is still extremely high. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to stop eating rice. However, knowing where your rice comes from can lessen the environmental impact if it is sourced from a much closer location.
In order for an egg to be hatched, a chicken needs to eat enough feed and drink enough water. It takes a large amount of water to make their feed and to irrigate the land they live on to make it grow. With all the steps necessary to hatch an egg, the water bill of the egg builds up.
It turns out that one egg takes 53 gallons of water to be produced.
Alike to rice production and consumer purchase, to reduce your water footprint when buying eggs, you can buy them from local farms, or make sure they are locally sourced.
Coffee and Tea
Both coffee and tea need water to grow as well as to be brewed. Coffee is harder to get sourced locally, whereas tea can be grown much closer to home or even at your home. Coffee beans have a much longer travel time, and are much harder to source - especially ethically. Tea leaves are just dried leaves, but coffee beans take a much longer time to be harvested. Because of these drastic differences in how tea leaves and coffee beans are grown and harvested, their water footprints are much different.
**One gallon of brewed tea takes 108 gallons of water, whereas one gallon of brewed coffee takes 1,056 gallons. **
The best way to reduce the water footprint of your morning drink is to ensure that your tea or coffee is ethically sourced. You can also find ways to buy local coffee and tea - or at least as local as the coffee or tea can be sourced from.
A burger requires a lot of different ingredients to be put together to create it, which is why we saved it for the end. A burger has a bun, meat, vegetables, and cheese, and each of these ingredients has a different water footprint. Above, we found out that one loaf of bread needs 150 gallons to be produced. So, one slice of bread requires about 10 gallons of water, so two would be 20 gallons. One ¼ pound of beef requires about 460 gallons of water. That means that the burger already has a water footprint of about 480 gallons.
If you add lettuce, tomato, or other topics the water footprint can rack up to over 650 gallons for only one burger.
To make this footprint less drastic, you can go vegetarian for a few times during the week or opt for a vegetarian patty since the beef is the largest contributor to the footprint of the burger.