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Effects of different Danish food consumption patterns on Water Scarcity Footprint

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  • Maria Zucchinelli, Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore
  • ,
  • Fabio Sporchia
  • ,
  • Mariacristina Piva, Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore
  • ,
  • Marianne Thomsen
  • Lucrezia Lamastra, Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore
  • ,
  • Dario Caro, European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Directorate Growth and Innovation, Circular Economy and Industrial Leadership Unit, Seville, Spain
Food production and consumption have been recognized as a major source of environmental impacts. To ensure food security and a sustainable food system, dietary changes have been identified as one of the valuable strategies to reduce impacts on the environment while promoting human health. The vast majority of scientific literature has been focused on the effects of food consumption on climate change while neglecting to assess the degree of water scarcity impacts due to water consumption embodied in food. The research paper investigates the nexus between food consumption and impacts on water consumption adding important findings to a more recent growing body of studies estimating the water footprint (WF) of different dietary scenarios. This study uses the Water Footprint Network methodology and the AWARE (Available Water REmaining) characterization model to assess both the WF and the blue WSF (water scarcity footprint), respectively, of four Danish diets: standard, carnivore, vegetarian and vegan. In order to make them comparable, a total intake of 2000 kcal person−1 day−1 was set as energetic reference for all the diet scenarios considered. Using detailed trade and production data of agri-foods, we were able to assess the location of primary production and consequently to reveal countries mainly affected by water scarcity associated with import to satisfy Danish diets consumption. We found that while the vegan scenario scored the best environmental profile requiring 1489 L/cap/day calculated with the volumetric WF approach, it has the largest potential impacts on blue WSF of 10,477 LH20-eq/cap/day. This study has shown that more than 90% of impacts on water consumption occur outside the national borders, as a consequence of large quantities of fruits and nuts imported by countries already threatened by high water scarcity conditions such as USA and Mediterranean regions. This methodological approach may be used to compare environmental performances of recommended dietary guidelines and to assess impact scenarios of new trade policies, protecting local water scarcity levels.
Original languageEnglish
Article number 113713
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Volume300
Number of pages12
ISSN0301-4797
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

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