Know Your Water Footprint In The Kitchen and Beyond

Words: Crush

Water security has never been more topical than it has in recent years; this forces us to drastically change how we think about and use water, especially in the kitchen. Waterless cooking (cooking with little to no water) should absolutely part of our daily routine.

Did you know? March 22nd 2023 is World Water Day. The focus is on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. The theme for 2023 is ‘Accelerating Change’.

Just as we have become aware of our carbon footprint, equally, we need to consider our water footprint. The water we use for cooking goes beyond what we use in our kitchens. Every ingredient comes with its own ‘water’ price tag, from the amount used to grow and harvest, until it eventually ends up on your dinner table as a (hopefully) delicious meal.

water footprint

Why it’s important to know your water footprint

What’s scary is that there is enough water for everyone on earth. The problem is that it’s unevenly distributed, wasted and or unsustainably managed. Which is why it’s so important for water-scarce regions and everyone to know and watch their water footprint.

What is a water footprint?

Simply put, your water footprint is the total amount of water needed to make your end product. It takes into consideration the whole supply chain and the water used either directly or indirectly to produce.water footprint

Why you should be thinking beyond your kitchen when cooking

As consumers in our modernised society, where produce is readily available all year round, we are seldom forced to stop and think about what resources went into an item unless there is a crisis in price.

The fact is, as conscious consumers we possess the collective power to drive demand down. Eventually, this trickles down to the farmers and supermarkets thereby reducing our footprint. We really do have the power!

Calculating Your Water Footprint

To give you an idea of how much water is used in food production, we have listed the global average of litres of water used per kilogram for 10 essential everyday ingredients most common to the South African household.

To calculate your water footprint per meal; times the value per kg by the amount consumed. So if you’re having one slice of bread weighing 0,04 kg (40 grams), your water footprint would be ± 65-litres. Wait, what?!

Don’t worry, we’re not saying don’t eat more than half a slice of bread per day. Rather, we want to illustrate how much water we actually indirectly use and why it’s important to be conscious and mindful of what we consume and even waste.water footprint

Below is a list from, which shows the global average of litres of water used (both directly and indirectly) to produce the final product.

See where South Africa ranks globally HERE.

Global Avg. water used for everyday ingredients

Beef 15 415 l/kg
Lamb & Mutton 8 763 l/kg
Pig 5 988 l/kg
Chicken 4 325 l/kg
1 egg 200 l
Sugar Crops 197 l/kg
Vegetables 322 l/kg
Starchy Roots 387 l/kg
Fruits 962 l/kg
Bread 1608 l/kg

Waterless Cooking Tips To Reduce Your Water Footprint

Fewer dishes, less cleanup = less water

Stick to recipes that use only one pot or pan, and if you must reuse the same pan for different dishes. Think oven tray cooking (don’t forget to line trays with oiled tin foil to avoid hours of scrubbing).

Invest in good quality non-stick pans and if your pots are losing their stick, check with the supplier where you can get your pan resprayed.

If you can’t get your hands on a non-stick pan, a temporary solution is to season after washing or use a spray and cook before cooking.

Say No to Boiling and Steaming

Obviously! But, if you must have rice or pasta, opt to cook them in the sauce or stock. As for steaming; pop veggies in a bowl with a tablespoon or two of water, cover with pieced clingfilm and nuke till cooked through, about 8 minutes.


If you secretly love hoarding, then this one’s for you! Legumes have a low water footprint, unfortunately, in their dry form they need soaking and boiling, but you can avoid these steps by using canned ones.

Inspired to cook with less water wastage? Check out these delish water saving recipes.

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