Potential water saving through changes in European diets

D. Vanham, Arjen Ysbert Hoekstra, G. Bidoglio

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114 Citations (Scopus)


This study quantifies the water footprint of consumption (WFcons) regarding agricultural products for three diets – the current diet (REF), a healthy diet (HEALTHY) and a vegetarian diet (VEG) – for the four EU zones WEST, NORTH, SOUTH and EAST. The WFcons related to the consumption of agricultural products (4265 l per capita per day or lcd) accounts for 89% of the EU's total WFcons (4815 lcd). The effect of diet has therefore an essential impact on the total WFcons. The current zonal WFcons regarding agricultural products is: 5875 lcd (SOUTH), 4053 lcd (EAST), 3761 lcd (WEST) and 3197 lcd (NORTH). These differences are the result of different consumption behaviours as well as different agricultural production methods and conditions. From the perspective of a healthy diet based on regional dietary guidelines, the intake of several product groups (sugar, crop oils, animal fats and meat) should be decreased and increased for others (vegetables, fruit). The WFcons regarding agricultural products for the alternative diets are the following: HEALTHY 4110 lcd (− 30%) and VEG 3476 lcd (− 41%) for SOUTH; HEALTHY 3606 lcd (− 11%) and VEG 2956 lcd (− 27%) for EAST; HEALTHY 2766 lcd (− 26%) and VEG 2208 lcd (− 41%) for WEST; HEALTHY 3091 lcd (− 3%) and VEG 2166 lcd (− 32%) for NORTH. Both the healthy and vegetarian diets thus result – consistent for all zones – in substantial WFcons reductions. The largest reduction takes place for the vegetarian diet. Indeed, a lot of water can be saved by EU citizens by a change in their diet.
Original languageUndefined
Pages (from-to)45-56
JournalEnvironment international
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • IR-90818
  • METIS-297995

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