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World Food Day 2023 focuses on the importance of water

In the UK water is so abundantly available that we tend to take it for granted. Hot or cold, we simply turn on a tap and there it is. We can take baths and showers. We can fill the kettle for a cuppa. We can wash clothes and dishes, water the plants, clean the car, make ice cubes or simply fill a glass - knowing that it will be clean and safe to drink.

We don’t realise quite how lucky we are. Whilst we are complaining about the occasional hosepipe ban, another 2.4 billion people are living in countries struggling with water scarcity. That’s almost one-third of the global population and - according to the United Nations - this number is projected to rise due to climate change, population growth, and poor water management. The theme of this year’s World Food Day* (16th October) is ‘Water is Life. Water is food. Leave no one behind.”

How does this relate to the UK food industry?

The effects of climate change

Like many other regions, the UK is now experiencing the effects of climate change. Changing weather patterns, more droughts and extreme downpours, can disrupt food production. Therefore ensuring water resilience in agriculture and food systems is essential to adapt to these changes. This can involve the development of drought-resistant crop varieties, improved water storage infrastructure, and more efficient water distribution systems.

Water Efficiency in Agriculture

Agriculture accounts for a substantial portion of our water use. Ensuring that water is used efficiently in crop irrigation and livestock management is vital for sustainable food production. By adopting water-efficient practices and precision irrigation, the UK can enhance food security while conserving a precious resource.

Food Waste Reduction

Wasting food also means wasting the water resources used in its production. Addressing food waste through better storage, distribution, and consumer awareness can help save water and ensure more equitable access to food.

Ensuring Water Quality

The theme highlights the importance of water quality for food safety. In the UK, water quality is closely monitored, but there are still challenges related to pollution and contamination in some areas. Indeed, in 2022 nine prosecutions were brought by the Environment Agency against water and sewerage companies. Ensuring clean and safe water sources is essential not only for human consumption but also for food production. Most foodstuffs include water either as an ingredient or as an essential part of its production. Contaminated water can compromise food safety, pose health risks, and affect crops and livestock health.

Sustainable Food Manufacturing

The UK food industry has been increasingly embracing sustainable practices, from reducing carbon emissions to improving water management. Many UK food producers are working to reduce their environmental footprint, which includes a focus on responsible water use.

*World Food Day is celebrated on 16th October every year and commemorates the date the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation was formed in 1945.