29 September 2015

WaterSmarts: The water in your food

Here are some very interesting answers from the June WaterSmarts Calendar activity.*

Find the "water footprint" of a food you like AND where it's grown
  1. Wine grapes grown in France, Spain, Italy, Australia
  2. Cheese! Wisconsin
What's the food's "footprint" in gallons or liters of water per unit (say the unit :)
  1. 870 li/li
  2. 3178 litre/kg
Now find how much "water stress" exists where that food is grown
  1. Generally, the red wine that I like is grown in areas of relatively high water stress. White wine is generally grown in cooler, areas of less water stress with lower number of sunshine days. Generally, red wine is not irrigated, or if it is, is irrigated with dripper irrigation at the base of each vine, because vignerons do not want red wine vines to produce too high a physical yield of grapes, on order to increase the concentration of the grapes.
  2. The dairy farming regions of Wisconsin get most water from Great Lakes, so supply is not an issue, but WQ is... thanks to all the dairy farming. Major phosphorus concerns and still not much action in the ag community on best practice implementation. There will have to be a significant hammer in place before that happens.
What do you think about your decision to consume this food against other factors (other foods, water policies, farmer income, etc)?
  1. Red wine is a first world consumption item. It is relatively high in water content, but with little irrigation it imposes little surface water stress. Alternatives such as beer and spirits have as high or higher water content. Drinking only tea or coffee might reduce the water footprint (but also the enjoyment).
  2. I really, really love cheese. So it makes sense for me to advocate more aggressively for agricultural best practices... or to find cheese producers who already set great examples in environmental management.
Notes, comments or questions?
  • I wonder about the "green" water cost of products. If I eat pasta made from French, non-irrigated wheat, compared to Italian non-irrigated wheat, I supposedly reduce the water cost of my food. But have I really? If neither appears to affect surface water, or at least require no direct abstraction, should I consider I've "saved" any water, or lowered anyone's water stress by eating French pasta, or bread, compared to eating Italian pasta? 

* Still accepting answers for these activities:

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