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Environmental science

UK food imports use scarce water

Nature volume 533, page 11 (05 May 2016) | Download Citation

Half of the United Kingdom's global water footprint is unsustainable.

Arjen Hoekstra and Mesfin Mekonnen of the University of Twente in the Netherlands quantified UK water consumption and found that the country uses roughly 5.5 billion cubic metres of surface and groundwater per year. About 5 billion m3 of that is accounted for abroad — mostly water used to produce imported food. Half of this comes from areas that use water unsustainably. For example, almonds are imported from central California, where rivers and groundwater are being depleted to grow this and other crops.

The authors recommend that Britain becomes more self-sufficient in food production and imports food from more water-abundant regions.

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