We cannot sustain our current water habits. In some places rivers and aquifers are sucked dry. In others there is still water but not enough to support ecosystems or people’s livelihoods Where water is scarce injustice abounds.
Because irrigation uses 70 percent of abstracted freshwater, food is on the front line. As concern over water escalates, food production will be affected and blamed in equal measure. Big food companies are worried – water shortages already strain production in some regions, so they know there’s more than reputation at risk. In the policy stakes, meanwhile, water scarcity is up there with climate change.
Like hunger, water scarcity is a social and economic condition, not simply a physical one – rich people don’t starve or go thirsty. Unless efforts to address water problems start with that fact, we duck the biggest issue.
This edition of Food Ethics examines recent food industry pledges on water efficiency – notably the UK Federation House Commitment – and explores what citizens and governments should do.