Vege eaters save water, new research figures on agriculture water usage

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 23rd October 2012

AUSVEG, the national peak industry body representing vegetable growers, is encouraging Australians to celebrate National Water Week this week by eating more fresh vegetables, based on scientific research from the Netherlands.

A 2010 study by Netherlands academics Mesfin Mekkonen and Arjen Hoekstra of the University of Twente took global averages of the amount of water required to produce a kilogram of different types of food, with vegetables significantly outperforming other agricultural products.

The study reported that while vegetables only required 322 litres of water on average to produce a kilogram of food, animal products were much more water-intensive. The study found that 3265 litres of water was required to produce a kilogram of eggs, and 5553 litres of water was required to produce a kilogram in butter.

The study also found that chicken meat was the most water-efficient meat requiring 4325 litres per kilogram, while pig meat and sheep/goat meet averaged 5988 and 8763 litres of water respectively. Cows used the most water, requiring 15415 litres per kilogram of meat.

The Netherlands study is supported by the Australian Bureau of Statistics publication Experimental Estimates of the Gross Value of Irrigated Agricultural Production, 2000-01 – 2007-08, which shows the value of production per megalitre of water used in vegetable production was $6,901 in 2007-08, compared to the average of all agricultural industries of $1,959.

AUSVEG Environment spokesperson Mr Jordan Brooke-Barnett said that AUSVEG was working to improve water efficiency through its EnvironVeg program.

“Through the EnviroVeg Program, growers are proactively monitoring and assess their environmental performance each year in areas such as water management,” said Mr Brooke-Barnett.

“Vegetable growers get some of the best economic returns per megalitre of water used compared to other agriculture industries,” he said.

National Water Week runs from 21-27 October 2012 and was established in 1993 as a way to encourage the community to take action and conserve Australian water resources.