What if I told you:

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What if I told you:
you eat 3496 litres of water

Yes, you eat 0 litres of water


Eating water might sound strange, but you are about to discover that actually you eat loads of it, you are addicted to it, and you don’t know it.

An understanding of our water consumption can help us provide a solution to one of our most pressing problems:
making sure there is enough water for everybody on the planet.

You can be part of that


It's the water we
use at home for
drinking, cooking,
washing. That is
our domestic

Much of the water
we use is obvious
it's visible in our

Our domestic
137 litres of water

This is how we
manage those
137 litres

ShowerBathing and Showering ToiletFlushing toilet LaundryLaundry CookingCooking and drinking CleaningCleaning
Water for
Domestic Consumption
137 litres

There is a little
problem though,
because what we
consume at home
is visible to us, but
it is only a small
bit of what we use
in total.
There are two
invisible parts.

The first invisible
is the water
used for the
production of the
industrial products
we consume
everyday, such as
paper, cotton,
clothes. This part
amounts to
167 litres per day.

The second big
invisible part
associated with
the production of
the food we
This amounts to
3496 litres per day
which means that
92% of the water
we use is invisible
and it is hidden in our food!

Beef from industrial systems, 3 years, 200 kg: grains-litres drinking servicing

We call this invisible water Virtual Water, a term coined
by water guru Prof. Tony Allan. The concept of virtual water
helps us realize how much water is needed to produce the
goods we use and the food we eat.

Let's discover why it is invisible.

Consider beef for instance.


In an industrial beef production
system it takes on
average three years before the animal is
slaughtered to
produce about
200 kilos of
boneless beef.


During the three
years the cow
consumes nearly
1300 kg of grains
such as wheat,
oats, barley, corn,
dry peas, and other
small grains.


The cow also
consumes 7200 kg
of roughages such
as pasture, dry
hay, silage, and
other roughages.

The production of
all the grains and
roughages requires
3060000 litres of

Grains litres

We need to take
into account also
24000 litres of
water that the cow drinks during the
three years


and we do not
have to forget the
7000 litres for
servicing the
farmhouse and for


Therefore, in total, we need 3091000 litres of water
for producing 200 kilos of boneless beef.
This means that to produce 1 kilogram of boneless beef
we need

Beef litres

Can you visualize 15400 litres of water in your head?

Well, if this is a 1 litre water bottle,

this is how 15400 litres look like,
an 8 by 40 metre water-wall!


Yes, an 8 by 40 metre water-wall!

All completely hidden in a big steak!

Water is precious. But not just for drinking: water is food!
Thanks to the extraordinary work of scientists we know how
much water we need to produce the food we consume. It is
easy to see that some products such as fruit and vegetables
are more water-friendly than others.

Coffee coffee
Beef beef
Sheep sheep
Pork pork
Goat goat
Chicken chicken
Cheese cheese
Rice rice
Soyabeans soyabeans
Wheat wheat
Sugar sugar
Barley barley
Maize maize
Apple apple

so now we know:

most of the water we use - 92 % of it - is used in food
production. Most of this water is managed by the world’s
farmers. With the help of science and technology they have
performed greater and greater miracles in improving water
productivity – in getting more crops per drop.

can we help?

we can!

The good news is that each one of us can also make the
world a little more water secure, ready to face the needs of
our peak population future. How?

The answer lies in our shopping baskets.

Suggestion grains

The amount of meat in our diet is crucial! The average daily water consumption of a meat-eating person is 5000 litres of water per day. The average for a vegetarian is 2500 litres. In countries where there is a culture of heavy meat consumption, the advice is: one meat-free-day a week! Every little bit helps.

Suggestion goat

The type of meat we consume is crucial! Choose meat raised on grass if you can. It is normally a more sensible use of water resources, since the land often cannot be used for highly productive crop production. Meat from sheep almost always falls into this category. Agri-corporations and supermarkets do not generally fit the grass-fed livestock model. Cheap meat is usually fed on grain, corn-fed beef is the problem.

Suggestion basket

The food we waste is crucial! We are highly wasteful, particularly in the industrialized nations. In the advanced economies we throw away approximately 30% of the food we purchase. Almost a third! And with it, all the water resources we use to produce that food. It would be wise to consider whether we should be producing and buying that food in the first place, so please, do not waste!

So, do not forget:

one meat-free-day a week
choose meat raised on grass
do not waste food

Enjoy a water sensible diet.

Start today and
spread the message!

Download Download the infographic story as a jpg

Concept, design, article, virtual water ambassador: Angela Morelli
Sources, scientific research, data: Water Footprint Network, Virtual Water by Tony Allan
UI/UX design and development, patience medalist: Basilico Interactive
Design advisor, Jiminy cricket, mental supporter: Tom Halsør
Editorial advisor, water guru: David Stonestreet

Creative Commons License
This work by Angela Morelli is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at www.angelamorelli.com.