The water footprint of food and cooking fuel in a developing country: A case study of self-sufficient rural India

K. Das*, P.W. Gerbens-Leenes, S. Nonhebel

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    4 Citations (Scopus)
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    Abstract

    Water is a basic resource for food and fuelwood production. In general, people in rural areas of India consume carbohydrate rich staples with small amounts of animal foods. They mostly depend upon fuelwood for cooking. This study assesses the WFs for food and fuel consumption in rural India. The research question is: What is the green, blue and grey water footprint (WF) of food and cooking fuel consumption per province in rural India (m3/cap/year). It used the WF method for the quantification. Data on food and fuelwood consumption were derived from the National Sample Survey (2011-12). Foods were categorized into 6 groups: 1. Rice; 2. Wheat; 3. Oils and fats; 4. Milk; 5. Other animal foods; and 6. Others. Cooking fuel includes: 1. Fuelwood; 2. Kerosene and 3. LPG. Data related to WFs of food were derived from literature reviews and in case of fuelwood, the WFs were calculated for all the provinces of India. Finally, the total WF of per cap consumption is calculated by adding the WF of food and fuelwood. The result shows that there is a large variation in the green, blue and grey WFs for food consumption across the provinces of India. The average WF for food consumption is about 800 m3/cap/year and for fuelwood is 1630 m3/cap/year. Rice and wheat dominate the green, blue and grey WFs for food, with variations among the provinces. The green WF of rice is larger than the green WF of wheat, while wheat has a larger blue WF. For cooking fuel, the average WF of fuelwood is much larger than the WF of fossil based cooking fuels. The total WF for fuelwood is twice the WF for food, showing that in rural areas of developing countries, fuelwood is water intensive with large impact on freshwater resources. Future prospects of increasing consumption of animal products will increase WFs. However, if also cooking fuel is considered, switching to fossil cooking fuel lowers WFs far more and compensates the increase due to larger animal food consumption. The trends for cooking fuel found in India might also be relevant for other developing countries.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number125255
    Number of pages11
    JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
    Volume281
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 25-Jan-2021

    Keywords

    • Water footprint food
    • Water footprint fuelwood
    • food consumption patterns rural India
    • fuelwood for cooking

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