THE 2,000 + LITRE CHEESE­BURGER

Canadian Geographic - - INFOGRAPHI­C -

By con­ser­va­tive es­ti­mates, the prod­ucts that make up this cheese­burger ac­count for more than 2,000 litres of wa­ter,* which is like fill­ing a bath­tub seven times or more than 330 toi­let flushes. Even though agri­cul­ture ac­counts for just five per cent of Canada’s to­tal wa­ter with­drawal (com­pared to ther­mal power gen­er­a­tion, at 67 per cent, the man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor, at 11 per cent, and house­holds, at nine per cent) a full 83 per cent of the wa­ter it uses is not re­turned to the water­shed.

CONDI­MENTS VIR­TUAL WA­TER: L

The vir­tual wa­ter con­tent of one tea­spoon (around 5 ml) of mus­tard seed is about 6.5 litres. May­on­naise, mean­while, is mostly oil and eggs: one litre of canola oil re­quires more than 3,000 litres of wa­ter to pro­duce, while a sin­gle egg takes about 140 litres.

BA­CON (60 g) L VIR­TUAL WA­TER:

A safe es­ti­mate of the vir­tual wa­ter con­tent of pork is about 3,280 litres/kg. Canada has ex­ported an av­er­age of 5.3 mil­lion hogs to the United States each year since 2013, which works out to more than 1.7 Bm3 VW.

CHEESE (30 g) L VIR­TUAL WA­TER:

It takes about 5,000 litres of wa­ter to make a kilo of cheese (fac­tor­ing in the wa­ter be­hind the four to eight litres of milk re­quired). In 2017, Canada ex­ported more than 8,800 tonnes of milk and 10,000 tonnes of cheese, rep­re­sent­ing 50 mil­lion m3 VW, but this does not take into ac­count the 150,000 tonnes of other dairy prod­ucts ex­ported that year.

BUN (50 g) L VIR­TUAL WA­TER:

Canada ex­ports an av­er­age of 17.7 mil­lion tonnes of wheat (grain and flour) each year, rep­re­sent­ing a mas­sive 23.6 Bm3 VW. Grains and oilseeds such as Canola are the coun­try’s largest agri­cul­tural ex­ports. Crops and live­stock raised on ir­ri­gated land (such as south­ern Al­berta, which is Canada’s most ir­ri­gated re­gion) have the largest wa­ter foot­prints.

VEG­GIES (35 g) L VIR­TUAL WA­TER:

Veg­eta­bles and fruits typ­i­cally have much lower vir­tual wa­ter con­tent than meat and dairy. Canada im­ports roughly 1.9 mil­lion tonnes of veg­eta­bles and 2.7 mil­lion tonnes of fresh fruit each year, mainly from the United States, Mex­ico and South Amer­ica. We ex­port less than half as many tonnes of veg­gies and one tenth as much fruit.

BEEF (150 g) , L VIR­TUAL WA­TER:

The wa­ter foot­print of beef is the high­est of the com­monly con­sumed meats ( 10,770 litres/kg, or six to seven times more wa­ter than a kilo­gram of chicken re­quires). In 2017, cat­tle ex­ports to the United States were about half of what they were in 2014, but still ac­counted for 3.4 Bm3 VW.

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