Graphics: Dropping The Burger Water Bomb

March 22nd saw this year’s World Water Day kick off a series of upcoming events organised by the UN and other organisations to highlight global water issues.

Luckily, there is lots of good news, like the fact that half of the internationally agreedMillennium Development Goal on safe drinking water and sanitation has been met ahead of schedule. According to a joint report by the World Health Organisation and UNICEF:

“Since 1990, more than 2 billion people have gained access to improved drinking water sources.”

This is great news, but almost 800 mn people still live without such access.

The real food for thought comes from the fact that 70% of the world’s fresh water resources are used in agriculture and many developing countries use a substantial portion of their arable land to produce crops for export to other countries.

The most water intensive foods to produce are those of animal origin because animals such as cows, pigs and chickens are typically fed much of the aforementioned agricultural produce. In the end, to produce a typical beef burger sold in the United States requires 2,700 litres of water. Therefore, passing up just one burger a month can save more water than you use in taking 40 showers.

In this sense few people realise that water shortages and other problems in the developing world are deeply intertwined with the behaviour of people living in more fortunate nations. INESAD has designed the following infographic* to help illustrate this point and inspire positive action. Love it, share it and spread the word:

Find out more about your and your diet’s water footprint at and more general water awareness information at

Do you know of any other inspiring infographics or illustrations? Leave a link in the reply box below.

Ioulia Fenton leads the food and agriculture research stream at the Center for Economic and Environmental Modeling and Analysis (CEEMA) at INESAD. 

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*Original Image designed by ServicePlan, Hamburg, Germany and produced for the 2009 UNICEF Dirty Water Bomb Campaign. It is used with permission to re-conceptualise and highlight the high water intensity of meat production for EU’s Drop by Dropcompetition.


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