A delicious pizza margarita (check a recipe on  this blog by Shadrach)

To make a pizza you need 1216 liters of water! An incredible amount which almost makes me ashamed to order one. But have you ever wondered why does it takes so much water to make a pizza margarita? Go with me on a trip through Italy (after all its almost time to go on holiday)and discover the whole story.

This post is inspired by a research executed by some Dutch universities, published in 2009. They considered a pizza margarita contains bread dough, tomato sauce and mozzarella as ingredient, thus forgetting about the olive oil and the basil that ‘formally’ are also included but in such a low quantity that forgetting about is, is not such a shame. 

Let’s start with the base of the pizza and thus the dough. Pasta is usually made from durum wheat, while  pizza is usually made out of a softer wheat to which water and some salt is added to allow to make a soft pasta. In Italy this is mostly grown in Emilia Romagna, a region in the centre-north of the country which has a wet winter dry summers. For the specific type of cereal this can be called an ‘ideal’ climate. Of the harvested product, 72 percent can be used for the pizza dough.

To top-off the dough, a tomato sauce (industrial) or fresh tomatoes are added. Until a few years ago most tomatoes where grown in the southern part of the country, but recently there has been a shift towards the north, where there are more facilities to process them and where the soil is not (yet) exhausted. Thanks to the climate here, the waterfootprint is much lower than that for the fresh tomatoes that still grow in the south. However, the fact that nitrogen is used to ‘feed’ the plants means that an invisible side effect adds-up to the water foodprint in the form of polluted water.

Going north even further and we bump into the mozzarella factories. The cheese originally is made by buffaloes, but to lower the prices and to respond to the high demand, most mozzarella is now made out of cows milk and officially is called ‘fior di latte’. Before reading the article I referred to before, I did not know that this is kneaded as if it becomes a dough in order to mix the curt with heated whey and obtain the shiny white balls we all call mozzarella.

Even though for the mozzarella we do not start to calculate from the seed an further, for the calculation of the water foodprint of a pizza margarita it is considered that a cow lives around 7 years during which it consumes 1308 liters of water per kilo of ‘body weigth’. On top-of that it is needed to calculate the water consumed by the cow and the water needed to clean the facilities she lives in. This and the fact that only 10 percent of the milk becomes mozzarella calculates for a waterfootprint of 717 liters per kilo mozzarella. Thirsty?

I always try to save as much energy as possible, so reducing the amount of water I use is one of it. But now I know how much water it takes to eat some of the foods I eat regularly, I am not so sure that my actions contribute more than a drop in the ocean. I won’t say that I now can forget about this. Rather in the contrary. Maybe I should focus even more on the foods and their water request to make sure I make a serious contribution to water savings?