Food Facts: How Much Water Does It Take to Produce … ?


Lettuce (1 cup)

3 gallons

Tomato Ketchup (1oz)

3 gallons

White Sugar (1 tbsp)

7 gallons

Whole Wheat Bread (1 slice)

7 gallons

Tomatoes (4.3 oz)

8 gallons

White Bread (1 slice)

11 gallons

Fresh Broccoli (2.7 oz)

11 gallons

Tomato Paste (2 oz)

12 gallons

Tomato Sauce (4 oz)

13 gallons

Oranges (4.6 oz)

14 gallons

Brown Rice (1 oz)

16 gallons

White Rice (1 oz)

25 gallons

Pasta (2 oz)

36 gallons

Cantaloupe (8 oz)

40 gallons

Butter (0.36 oz)

46 gallons

Milk (8 fl. Oz)

48 gallons

Orange Juice (1 cup)

49 gallons

Cheese (1 oz)

56 gallons

Tofu (1/2 cup)

61 gallons

Egg (1)

63 gallons

Almonds (1 oz)

80 gallons

Plain Yogurt (1 cup)

88 gallons

Chicken (8 oz)

330 gallons

Hamburger (4 oz)

616 gallons

Steak (8 oz)

1,232 gallons

Where did the figures come from?

In September 1991, the Water Education Foundation published a special report called “Water Inputs in California Food Production” by Marcia Kreith at UC Davis. The study updated numbers issued in 1978 by the UC Cooperative Extension. It examined the amount of water required to produce selected dairy, beef, poultry, grains, soy, fruit and vegetable products from the beginning of planting or growth cycle up to the time of cooking. Step by step calculations used to figure the water requirements are included for each food in the 162-page report.

The report analyzed water used in California food production per serving for 27 tabletop items and for per pound for 34 items. The committee overseeing the study established a number of criteria: the study counted all water – whether naturally available or applied as irrigation water to grow and process food products. No distinction was made between precipitation, surface reservoir water or groundwater. Among several research parameters, an irrigation efficiency of 70% was assumed to be average.

For more information, contact the Foundation at 916-444-6240.

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