Should Individual Food Items Get Water Footprint Labels or Are We Already Overloaded With Information?


photo: Yuichi via flickr

The water footprint of food is likely to become a growing problem as climate change plays havoc with world water supplies, and as more of the world tries to eat up the social ladder: As in consuming more meat. In an effort to make people more aware of the water intensity of their food, two UK-based groups have proposed that food carry water footprint labels, The Guardian reports:Proposal Would Have General Water Footprint Label
The Food Ethics Council and Sustain issued the briefing "Water labels on food: Issues and recommendations" earlier this week.

It proposes not that food be labelled directly as to how many liters of water were need to grow a kilogram of the foodstuff, but rather be label representing good water stewardship more broadly.

It could also be incorporated into a label containing information on whether the product was part of fair trade regime and/or some sort of carbon labeling.

In theory I like the idea, but in practice I'm not so sure it would make much of a difference.

Greater Education Needed, But Is Labeling the Right Way?
Certainly greater education is needed on the issue of water intensity of food -- it's something TreeHugger and Planet Green have brought up on numerous occasions -- and the fact that a vegetarian or largely vegetarian diet has a much lower water footprint than does the typical meat-heavy diet. And a vegan diet has a lower water footprint still.

But do people really pay attention to labels on food or is it all just information overload? Perhaps there's a way to design a better label that incorporates nutritional information, carbon content, whether it's certified organic or not, water content, without it all be a jumble.


photo: Natalie Maynor via flickr
What About Farmer's Markets?
And then if we move towards a system wherein more people buy their food at farmers markets, where the items are largely unpackaged (a good thing that) how would this labeling be implemented without it being a burden on already stressed small or mid-sized farmers?

I want to know what readers think on this one: What would you like to see in water footprint labeling? Yes/no. What form should it take?

Similar Proposal in Australia
NOTE: A similar proposal to this one was put forth in Australia, back in April -- so it's certainly an issue we're going to see getting more scrutiny -- and the issue seemed to be met with a big 'meh' by commenters. Surely TreeHugger readers are a passionate enough bunch to care about how much water their food requires.

More on the Water Footprint of Food
From Lettuce to Beef, What's the Water Footprint of Your Food?
6 (More) Reasons a Vegetarian Diet Can Help You Lose Weight, Save Money, and Save the Planet
Measure Your Food's Water Footprint

Tags: Blue August | Water Conservation | Water Crisis