Vegan and vegetarian diets are not only healthy, but they save water too. In fact, new research shows that switching to a healthier diet can reduce an individual’s water footprint by as much as 55%.

According to new research, turning vegetarian has the biggest impact, but even cutting down on meat gives a saving of at least 10%.

Vegan and Vegetarian Diets Are a Win-Win

The researchers remarked that shifting to a healthy diet is a “win-win situation.” Not only will people be healthier, but the food they eat can be produced using less water, one of our most precious natural resources.

According to Dr. Davy Vanham of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, in Ispra, Italy, “The main message is that if you shift to a healthy diet, be it with meat or without (vegetarian or pescetarian), according to your own preference, it’s not only good for your health, but it’s also very good for the environment in the sense that you reduce your water footprint substantially.”

Healthy Diets and Decreased Water Use

Vegan and vegetarian and other less meat-based diets use less water. Here are the details of the European study:

• The research, carried out in the UK, France and Germany, is published in the journal Nature Sustainability.

• The water footprint from food consumption per person per day is:
o 2,757 litres in the UK
o 2,929 litres in Germany
o 3,861 litres in France

• This study conducted a detailed analysis of food-related water consumption for the following types of diets: healthy diet with meat, healthy pescetarian diet, and healthy vegetarian diet.

• Switching to a healthy diet with meat and eating from all food groups, based on national guidelines, would reduce water consumption by 11-35%

• A healthy pescetarian diet, replacing meat with fish and beans and animal fat is replaced with oils from crops, reduces water consumption by 33-35%.

• A healthy vegan or vegetarian diet, one with no fish or meat and oils from crops in place of animal fat, reduces water consumption by 35-55%.

Comments of Researchers about Vegan and Vegetarian Diets Saving the Planet

Freshwater resources are already scarce, but the problem is set to get worse, due to population growth, changing lifestyles and climate change. Public messages on saving water by taking shorter showers or turning off the tap when brushing teeth are well known.

But there is lower awareness of the amount of water used to produce food. Raising livestock uses up a lot of water. Oils, sugars and fats also require large amounts of water to produce, but growing fruits and vegetables is more water efficient.

Comments from Dr. Davy Vanham of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre:

• If you look at the numbers for the European countries it goes to 3,000 – 4,000 litres per person per day.
• These are enormous amounts when you compare them with direct water use at home.

• The results were broadly similar in the three countries, confirming that people in Europe tend to eat too much red meat, sugar and fat, but do not eat enough fruit and vegetables, he said.

I’m sure if this study was conducted in the United States it would yield similar results.

Click here to read more about how vegan and vegetarian diets use less water.