A non-partisan, neutral perspective supporting diversity in the color of water

Friday, September 17, 2010

The water needed for Italians to eat pasta and pizza

I am off to Perugia, Italy to teach a workshop in water conflict for the next week. I was hoping to learn more about greywater reuse in Italy before departing, but came up with very little except for this article on the water footprint of pasta and pizza from the Dutch experts who created the water footprint concept for use across the world, M.M. Aldaya,  and A.Y. Hoekstra.


Water resources use in agriculture is generally quantified in relation to the harvest. In contrast, this paper takes a consumer perspective by assessing water use in relation to the final consumer product. The paper analyses the water use related to two products that are typical to Italian consumers: pasta and pizza margherita. We use the water footprint concept as a tool to quantify and localise this water use. The water footprint of a product is the volume of freshwater used to produce the product, measured over the various steps of the production chain. We find that the water footprint of dry pasta made in Italy amounts to 1924 l of water per kilogram of pasta. The water footprint of a 725 g pizza margherita is 1216 l of water. The impacts of the water footprints of pasta and pizza depend on the vulnerability of the water systems where the footprints are located. The impact of the water footprint of pasta is most severe in Puglia and Sicily, where groundwater overexploitation for durum wheat irrigation is common. The impact of the water footprint of pizza is more diverse. It is concentrated in the first step of the supply chain of tomato puree and mozzarella, i.e. in the cultivation of tomatoes and the feed crops of dairy cows. The bread wheat used for the pizza base does not have large impacts. The water footprint impact of the tomato puree on the pizza is concentrated in Puglia (groundwater overexploitation and pollution related to tomato cultivation) and Emilia-Romagna (water pollution). The water footprint impact of mozzarella lies mostly in the effects of water use for producing the feed ingredients for the dairy cows. Mozzarella production further poses a potential threat to water quality, mostly in the Po valley, but this problem seems to be properly regulated, although possibly not fully controlled.

Read more in Agricultural Systems, Volume 103, Issue 6, July 2010, Pages 351-360 doi:10.1016/j.agsy.2010.03.004 to learn the details connected to greywater.

Check out your personal water footprint using their calculator here. If I see or hear of greywater reuse while in Italy, I will nota bene from there.

The Rainbow Water Coalition celebrates its 100th posting on greywater. 

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