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Water 2014, 6(5), 1435-1452; doi:10.3390/w6051435
Article

Global Changes and Drivers of the Water Footprint of Food Consumption: A Historical Analysis

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Received: 12 January 2014 / Revised: 12 May 2014 / Accepted: 13 May 2014 / Published: 22 May 2014
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Abstract

Water is one of the most important limiting resources for food production. How much water is needed for food depends on the size of the population, average food consumption patterns and food production per unit of water. These factors show large differences around the world. This paper analyzes sub-continental dynamics of the water footprint of consumption (WFcons) for the prevailing diets from 1961 to 2009 using data from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The findings show that, in most regions, the water needed to feed one person decreased even if diets became richer, because of the increase in water use efficiency in food production during the past half-century. The logarithmic mean Divisia index (LMDI) decomposition approach is used to analyze the contributions of the major drivers of WFcons for food: population, diet and agricultural practices (output per unit of water). We compare the contributions of these drivers through different subcontinents, and find that population growth still was the major driver behind increasing WFcons for food until now and that potential water savings through agricultural practice improvements were offset by population growth and diet change. The changes of the factors mentioned above were the largest in most developing areas with rapid economic development. With the development of globalization, the international food trade has brought more and more water savings in global water use over time. The results indicate that, in the near future and in many regions, diet change is likely to override population growth as the major driver behind WFcons for food.
Keywords: food consumption; water footprint; global analysis; decomposition analysis; historical trends food consumption; water footprint; global analysis; decomposition analysis; historical trends
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Yang, C.; Cui, X. Global Changes and Drivers of the Water Footprint of Food Consumption: A Historical Analysis. Water 2014, 6, 1435-1452.

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