Even though 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, 97,5% is saltwater and non-drinkable.
Only 2,5% of that water is sweet water and considered drinkable. The biggest amount of that
drinking water is trapped inside ice and glaciers, which means it’s not available to us and another big
amount of that water is flowing under the Earth’s surface. That leaves us with only 1.2% of the water
that’s available to us for daily usage. (Gleick, 1993)
Most of the advice on how to save water is focused on using water in the household. Globally, that is
where only 10% of the water is used and another 20% is used in industries.
The agriculture (of animals and plants) uses around 70% water in the world. (Pimentel et al, 2004)
98% of that water is used in animal agriculture and that’s mostly used to produce animal food.
Approximately 1/3 of the world’s grain and corn production and 80% of the world’s soy production is
produced to feed the animals that are going to be eaten by people. (Mekonnen & Hoekstra, 2010)
The term “water footprint” is used to mark the amount of water being used for the production of
goods and services. Farming and the livestock industry is using huge amounts of water and that’s the
reason why food’s water footprint is so high. Animal products like meat, dairy and eggs demand
more water than producing grain, fruits and vegetables. Individually, someone’s diet makes up the
biggest part of someone’s water footprint. (water footprint network)
1/3 of the water used in the livestock agriculture is used in livestock sector. On average only for beef
production 28 times more surface is needed, 11 times more water for irrigation and 5 times more
glasshouse gases are being emitted into the atmosphere comparing to other animal products.
Regarding calories, the water footprint of animal products is higher than the one of plant products.
Water usage by calorie for beef is 20 times higher than for grain and starchy vegetables. The same
goes for protein, the water footprint of dairy, eggs and chicken is 1,5 times higher than the one of
legumes. Beef’s water footprint per 1 gram of protein is 6 times higher than the one of legumes.
(Stephen Leahy, 2014)
In most countries today the biggest water pollutants aren’t cities or industries, but agriculture!
Throughout the world the most common pollutants are nitrates, which are found in aquifers are the
result of agriculture. 37% of all pesticides and 70% of all herbicides are used in agriculture and a big
amount of those ends up in seas, oceans and our drinking water. This represents a serious risk for
human health and the ecosystem of the planet. The livestock sector is the biggest source of water
pollution. Manure and slurry contain high amounts of nitrogen and phosphate, which find their way
into under surface waters. (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations et al., 2018)
These elements can cause serious damage to waters like eutrophication, aka an excessive amount of
algae in water, which destroys the water ecosystem and leads to fish extinction and others.
It is predicted that we’ll have no drinking water and no sea life by 2048 if we continue consuming
Scientists say that 95% of our calories needs to come form plant foods by 2048 in order to avoid this
catastrophe. They add that even as little as 5% of animal products could present a challenge to
global sustainability. (Jägerskog & Jønch, 2012)
The more people transition to a plant based diet, the less animal industries, waste and pollution, the
less crop production, the more will help to preserve natural resources like water!
Transitioning to a plant based diet you can individually impact water usage, even up to 55%.
(Vanham et al., 2018)
The vegan diet is the best and most efficient way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, to reduce
glasshouse gases, acidification, eutrophication, land and water usage. (Poor & Nemeck, 2018)
Gleick, P. H. (1993). Water in crisis. Pacific Institute for Studies in Dev., Environment & Security. Stockholm Env. Institute, Oxford Univ. Press.
Pimentel, D., Berger, B., Filiberto, D., Newton, M., Wolfe, B., Karabinakis, E., … & Nandagopal, S. (2004). Water resources: agricultural and environmental issues. BioScience
Mekonnen, M. M., & Hoekstra, A. Y. (2010). The green, blue and grey water footprint of farm animals and animal products. Volume 2: Appendices.
Poore, J., & Nemecek, T. (2018). Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers. Science
Vanham, D., Comero, S., Gawlik, B. M., & Bidoglio, G. (2018). The water footprint of different diets within European sub-national geographical entities. Nature Sustainability
Richey, A. S., Thomas, B. F., Lo, M. H., Reager, J. T., Famiglietti, J. S., Voss, K., … & Rodell, M. (2015). Quantifying renewable groundwater stress with GRACE. Water resources research
Jägerskog, A., & Jønch Clausen, T. (2012). Feeding a thirsty world: challenges and opportunities for a water and food secure future. Stockholm International Water Institute.
Stephen Leahy (2014.) Your Water Footprint
Tettamanti M et al. (2007.) Evaluating the environmental impact of various dietary patterns combined with different food production systems. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, International Water Management Institute and CGIAR Water, Land and Ecosystems research program ( 2018.) More people, more food, worse water? A global review of water pollution from agriculture