Title: Urban food consumption and associated water resources: The example of Dutch cities
Citation: SCIENCE OF THE TOTAL ENVIRONMENT vol. 565 p. 232–239
Publication Year: 2016
JRC N°: JRC100618
ISSN: 0048-9697
URI: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969716308750
DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.04.172
Type: Articles in periodicals and books
Abstract: Full self-sufficiency in cities is a major concern. Cities import resources for food, water and energy security. They are however key to global sustainability, as they concentrate a rapidly increasing and urbanising population (or number of consumers). In this paper, we analysed the dependency of urban inhabitants on the resource water for food consumption, by means of Dutch cities. We found that in extremely urbanised municipalities like Amsterdam and Rotterdam, people eat more meat and cereals and less potatoes than in other Dutch municipalities. Their current water footprint (WF) related to food consumption is therefore higher (3245 l/cap/day) than in strongly urbanised cities (3126 l/cap/day). Dutch urban citizens who eat too many animal products, crop oils and sugar can reduce their WF (with 29 to 32%) by shifting to a healthier diet. Recommended less meat consumption has the largest impact on the total WF reduction. A shift to a pesco-vegetarian or vegetarian diet would require even less water resources, where the WF can be reduced by 36 to 39% and 40 to 42% respectively. Dutch cities such as Amsterdam have always scored very high in international sustainability rankings for cities, partly due to a long history in integrated (urban) water management in the Netherlands. We argue that such existing rankings only show a certain – undoubtedly very important – part of urban environmental sustainability. To communicate the full picture to citizens, stakeholders and policy makers, indicators on external resource usage need to be employed. The fact that external resource dependency can be altered through changing dietary behaviour should be communicated.
JRC Directorate:Sustainable Resources

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