Food makes up the largest part of our water footprint. In the US, for instance, agriculture accounts for 80% of water consumption. Producing 1 kg of chocolate requires approximately 17,196 litres of water, and 1 kg of dry pasta uses 1849 litres of water in production.
Yet, 30-40% of all food produced globally every year is wasted, while freshwater scarce areas of countries worldwide are continuing to rise. In California, the period between 2011 and 2014 was the driest in its history, but per capita water use increased (PPIC, 2015). In Iran, overconsumption and poor rainfall have devastated its agricultural output in many areas. In England, the southern and south-east region is officially classified by the Environment Agency as being in serious water stress (GOV.UK, 2013).
Businesses in water-stressed (or soon to be water-stressed) areas are at risk, thus investors are increasingly considering water supply during decision-making processes (GrowingBlue, 2016). Companies have been established as a result of this. For example, the Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF) sells Water Restoration Certificates that fund a programme giving landowners the option to not use their water. Each certificate represents 3,785 litres (1,000 gallons) of water. The scheme has received a positive reception, but for small businesses it is expensive – a small brewery that brews 124 pints (15.5 gallons) everyday would pay about $4,000 (£2,500) per year (Guardian, 2012).
The idea here is to provide Water Conservation Certification free of cost to businesses that donate excess food to redistribution organisations.
This will be done in the following way:
- Business (restaurant/hotel) owner enters the WCC process and gains access to the WCC app.
- The WCC app calculates water footprint of food waste based on weight and food type
- The business owner selects the preferred food redistributor in the region (e.g. FareShare in the UK, ExtraFood in California, ZeroPercent in Chicago).
- The food redistributor arrives to pick up.
- Business owner gets Food saver Points and Water Conservation Credits in account.
- On collection of 1000 gallon points, the owner claims the Level 1 of the certification.
- Owner views the impact through food donation on WCC app, e.g. places his food has been donated, total amount of food saved and water conserved in his region / globally.
The work flow of how the WCC operates is demonstrated in the following image.
Essentially, to build water credits, businesses need to receive water conservation points and donate surplus food in return.
The WCC is the first Water Conservation Certification provider that is free of cost for businesses.
A prototype of the business is illustrated in the business model canvas below.
- Brings a new level of awareness that food waste is ‘bigger’ than food waste.
- Feeds into charities that already redistribute food that would otherwise be wasted.
- Agricultural businesses can benefit by receiving animal feed.
- Reduces the need for future trading of abstractions and abstraction licences, as it provides a more efficient and environmentally friendly alternative to water trading.
- Helps to reduce a historical over-allocation of water.
- With drier summers and more frequent droughts stemming from climate change, it provides a form of adaptive management.
- Provides a benchmark to businesses for reducing their food (and subsequently) water waste.
- Offers businesses a new way to improve their corporate social responsibility.
GOV.UK, 2013: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/water-stressed-areas-2013-classification
GrowingBlue, 2016: http://growingblue.com/water-in-2050/
Guardian, 2012: https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/water-offsets-new-tool-stewardship
PPIC, 2015: http://www.ppic.org/main/publication_show.asp?i=1087