The water footprint of the EU for different diets

D. Vanham, Mesfin Mekonnen, Arjen Ysbert Hoekstra

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In this paper, the EU28 (EU27 and Croatia) water footprint of consumption (WFcons) for different diets is analysed: the current diet (REF, period 1996–2005), a healthy diet (DGE), a vegetarian (VEG) and combined (COM) diet. By far the largest fraction of the total WFcons (4815 lcd) relates to the consumption of edible agricultural goods (84%). The average EU28 diet is characterised by a too high energy intake and a too high ratio of animal to vegetal protein intake. For a healthy diet, the intake of some product groups should be reduced (sugar, crop oils, meat and animal fats) and of other product groups increased (vegetables and fruit). Especially the consumption of animal products accounts for high WF amounts. The three alternative diets result in a substantial reduction (−974 lcd or −23% for DGE, −1292 lcd or −30% for COM, −1611 lcd or −38% for VEG) of the WFcons for agricultural products with respect to the existing situation (REF, 4265 lcd). The reduction in meat intake contributes most to the WF reduction. Each of the specific WF components (green, blue and grey) shows a reduction similar to the observed reduction in the total WFcons. Regarding the total WFcons (green, blue and grey WFcons) as well as the WFcons without the grey WF component (green + blue WFcons) for agricultural products, the EU28 shifts from net virtual water (VW) importer for the REF and DGE diets to net exporter for the COM and VEG diets.
Original languageUndefined
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalEcological indicators
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • METIS-295533
  • IR-90749

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