Will we be able to eat less water?

Ninety per cent of the water we use is needed to produce our food.

Agriculture and husbandry account for a surprising proportion of the world’s drinking water consumption, to the point that all the water consumed for domestic use (in the bathroom, for heating, to water plants) is just a small percentage of the amount used to produce food. In particular, the production of meat and food products of animal origin, such as dairy products, entails water consumption with today’s systems that would be entirely unsustainable if a larger share of the world population ate the same amount of meat as we eat in more developed countries.

The data on water consumption in the production of meat used in this film come from United Nations estimates, presented on the website of the International Year of Water Cooperation and the page of statistics on water consumption of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, amongst others.

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It was Tony Allan, a researcher at King’s College London, who introduced the concept of “virtual water” nearly 20 years ago to describe the water that we don’t see and don’t realise we’re consuming, but that we use to produce food and other products. His research is summarised in the book “Virtual Water” published in Great Britain in 2011.

Amongst others, his work has inspired this animated infographic by Italian information designer Angela Morelli, which is the source of the data used in this film.

In the project Virtual Water, meanwhile, German designer Timm Kekeritz has created an app for smartphones and tablets (it’s also available in Italian and can be downloaded for free) to quickly calculate the “water footprint” of every food we eat, that is to say how much water it took to produce it.

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