The Water Footprint

It often goes unrealized that about 2/3 of our carbon footprint is from the food we choose to eat. One of the largest uses of fresh water today is from agriculture. To produce ¼ pound of beef that is typically in a burger it takes about 460 gallons of water. To produce a pound of bread it typically takes 20 gallons of water. It is easy to eat without thinking in terms of water, but some of the foods that are consumed most often may be taking more water than expected.


Meat and Water
Meat requires a large amount of water to produce. This includes water required to grow food for the animals. It takes about 147 gallons of water to produce one pound of corn. A cow used to produce beef consumes around 1,000 pounds over half of a year. All that water adds up pretty quickly. Chicken requires around 500 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat. Water is needed for animals to drink, to maintain their living areas, to grow food for the animals, and in the actual production of meat. The larger the animal is, the more water that is going to be required for their meat.

Dairy and Water
Now it is time to think about dairy. To produce just one egg it requires about 50 gallons of water. A majority of the water is from using water to grow food, such as corn, for the chickens. To produce one gallon of milk it requires 255 gallons of water. Again, typical dairy milk comes from cows and since they are a larger animal they require more water for their food to be grown.

Which One Takes Less?
Broccoli requires 34 gallons of water for each pound produced while asparagus requires 258 gallons of water per pound. Tomatoes require 26 gallons of water per a pound while eggplants require 43 gallons per pound. Tea requires 108 gallons of water for every gallon that is brewed while coffee requires 1,056 per every gallon brewed.


To no surprise food requires water to grow. However, it can be seen that some food requires more water than other foods. Fresh water is a problem that is on the radar for many people. It sometimes can seem like activities such as driving a car or recycling are what makes up your carbon footprint. While those sort of things do contribute to your overall footprint they are no where near as important as the types of food you choose to consume. Choose wisely.




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4 responses to “The Water Footprint

  1. amyquandt

    Why do some vegetables take more water than others? Does it have to do with HOW they grow or is it more about WHERE they are farmed?


    • madisonsmith71

      It depends on both. Location has a large factor on how much water is used and certain crops are more water intensive than others.


  2. joemitchem

    Are there any types of animal feed available that would decrease the amount of water consumed?


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