The food system is a major source of environmental impacts and there is much debate about the adoption of dietary patterns that could mitigate these impacts. ALCAS members may be caught up in this debate at some level and may therefore be interested in a new study of the water-scarcity footprints of Australian diets.
Published in the journal Nutrients in August, the study evaluates 9,341 Australian adult daily diets obtained from the Australian Health Study. An LCA-based water-scarcity footprint and a diet quality score were calculated for each diet. Three water-scarcity indicators were used, including the AWARE model recently developed by a project group working under the auspices of the Life Cycle Initiative.
The potential to reduce dietary water-scarcity impacts is large, although the opportunity to intervene through amended dietary guidelines is not straightforward due to the large variations in water-scarcity footprint intensity between individual foods within a food group, and the inability of consumers to identify lower water-scarcity footprint products without additional food labeling.
Reductions in the water-scarcity footprint of Australian food consumption are probably best achieved through reductions in food waste, technological change to improve water-use efficiency in food production, as well as the implementation of product reformulation and procurement strategies in the food manufacturing sector to avoid higher water-scarcity footprint intensity ingredients.
Ridoutt BG, Baird D, Anastasiouu K, Hendrie GA. 2019. Diet quality and water scarcity: Evidence from a large Australian population health survey. Nutrients 11(8), 1846;