Last week, the BBC covered a story about the amount of food that is wasted globally. Estimates are that around 30% – 50% of all food produced is wasted; this amounts to around two billion tonnes of food.
Now, that’s a lot of food, but the impact on global water resources was not widely reported. My earlier blog post about the export bans imposed by some Middle East countries gave some idea about the volume of water embedded “virtually” in products. The Institution of Mechanical Engineers, the organisation that undertook the study into levels of wastage, gives details of the impact this has on global water resources.
The total volume of water extracted around the world this year will be approximately 3,800 cubic kilometres , and about 70% of this is used for growing food. or 2,700 cubic kilometres. So, if between 30% and 50% of food is wasted, the most basic assessment would be that the same volume of water is wasted. 800 to 1350 cubic kilometres of water. That’s a staggeringly large volume. I can’t comprehend what that means in the usual colloquial measure of water volume – Olympic swimming pools (up to 540,000,000). It’s 182 time the volume of Loch Ness. And this doesn’t include water used in processing foods.
Now, clearly it’s much more complicated than this, because some foods require significantly more water than others, and there is no research on the type of food wasted, and some of that water would run off into the seas and oceans anyway, but that aside, the volume of water lost is huge.
What is interesting is that in most cases, the link to water is only mentioned briefly in the media. I think this will change.
Dr Ric Horobin
Water & Environment Director at Zenith International
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