Down the Drain: What's Your Water Footprint?

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As the planet heats up, water shortages are becoming an important environmental issue. You've been told to reduce your carbon footprint—but what about your water footprint? To help explain this new means of measuring consumption, we turn to Matthew McDermott, Senior Writer for Treehugger.

Continue reading to see the water footprint of some popular foods and beverages.

Fruits, Vegetables & Grains

If you want to really reduce the water footprint of your food, then choose a diet emphasizing fruits, veggies and grains: it's healthier, cheaper and better for carbon emissions, too. But even here there are some big variations:
Lettuce — 15 gallons
Tomatoes — 22 gallons
Cabbage — 24 gallons
Cucumber — 28 gallons
Potatoes — 30 gallons
Oranges — 55 gallons
Apples — 83 gallons
Bananas — 102 gallons
Corn — 107 gallons
Peaches or Nectarines — 142 gallons
Wheat Bread — 154 gallons
Mango — 190 gallons
Avocado — 220 gallons
Tofu — 244 gallons
Groundnuts — 368 gallons
Rice — 403 gallons
Olives — 522 gallons
Chocolate — 2847 gallons

Meat & Dairy

This is where water intensity really starts increasing. If you want to reduce the water footprint of your diet, this is where you want to really cut back:

Eggs — 573 gallons
Chicken — 815 gallons
Cheese — 896 gallons
Pork — 1630 gallons
Butter — 2044 gallons
Beef — 2500-5000 gallons (Global figures for the water intensity of beef vary so significantly that an average isn't particularly informative, so a range of figures is given)


You want to quench your thirst while keeping your water footprint as low as possible? Tap water is probably best. Here's the water footprint of some other beverages:

Tea (8oz) — 7 gallons
Beer, barley (8oz) — 36 gallons
Coffee (8oz) — 29 gallons
Wine (8oz) — 58 gallons