Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute


Date of this Version


Document Type



Global Food Security 24 (2020) 100357

doi 10.1016/j.gfs.2020.100357


Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY license


The EAT-Lancet universal healthy reference diet recommends an increase in the consumption of healthy foods, among which treenuts and groundnuts. Both are, however, water-intensive products, with a large water footprint (WF) per unit of mass and protein and already today contribute to blue water stress in different parts of the world. The envisaged massive required increase in nut production to feed a global population with this reference diet, needs to occur in a water-sustainable way. In this paper, we identify and quantify where current nut production contributes to local blue water stress and discuss options for water-sustainable nut production. We show that 74% of irrigated nuts are produced under blue water stress (of which 63% under severe water stress), throughout many regions of the world, most notably in India, China, Pakistan, the Middle East, the Mediterranean region and the USA. We critically evaluate which nut types to promote given substantial differences in WFs. We propose sustainable intensification of nut production employing nut-specific WF benchmarks. We also recommend integrated water resources management including maximum sustainable levels of water consumption by setting of WF caps.