Policy Position

Water is a precious resource and as the global population continues to rise, an increasing level of freshwater will be required for drinking, food production and sanitation. Careful water management will be necessary to ensure that both supply and demand can be met, whilst preserving the water environment and the ecology that it supports. Only through collective action involving the wider supply chain and other stakeholders can these challenges, both short and long term, be addressed.

Water is required for crop growth and is also a primary ingredient of many food and drink products. During the manufacturing process for food and drink products, water is frequently used for preparation, production and cleaning.

The food and drink manufacturing sector therefore regards the management of water as an important environmental priority and as such water sustainability is a key consideration in the decision-making process of individual member companies. FDF supports the provision of a single methodology to assess the water footprint of a product, which should include the volume of water appropriated and the impact of its use. For this reason we support the work currently being undertaken by ISO to develop an international standard for water accounting and impact assessment.

FDF believes that transparency and disclosure are key to meeting the expectations of stakeholders. It helps companies to focus on continuous improvement and turn principles into results. We already report annually on the progress made by FDF members under the 'Five-fold Environmental Ambition' and from 2017, 'Ambition 2025'.

FDF calls upon the Government to deliver a long-term strategic approach to planning for public water supplies, including infrastructure, for people and businesses and which also protects the environment.


1.1.Under FDF’s Five-fold Environmental Ambition and from 2017, Ambition 2025 we actively encourage members to reduce water consumption. This aims to contribute to the industry-wide absolute target to reduce water use by 20% by 2020 compared to 2007. We also commit to delivering continuous improvement in the use of water across the whole supply chain and take action to ensure sustainable water management and stewardship.

1.2 Under Ambition 2025, FDF will help members achieve this by:

a) Initiate discussion on a review of the industry wide target before 2020.

b) Encourage more members to participate in FDF’s Food and Drink Manufacturing Water Use Reporting initiative.

c). Discuss with WRAP and other stakeholders how best to track change in water impact both within members’ own operations and across supply chains and agree a suitable metric/target to be included in Courtauld 2025.

d) Signpost members to suitable water risk management tools such as the guidance contained in the BiTC Smart Water, a prosperous future for the food and drink supply chain report and WWF’s Water Risk Filter and encourage their uptake.

e) Work with Defra and other stakeholders on developing the priority areas within the Government’s long term plan for the environment in order to ensure that it reflects the importance of water to the agri-food sector.

FDF's Ambition to Reduce Water Use

FDF is committed to making a collective contribution to an industry-wide absolute target[1] to reduce water use, outside of that embedded in products themselves, by 20% by 2020 against a 2007 baseline.

This commitment has previously been delivered through the Five-fold Environmental Ambition launched in 2007 to reduce environmental impacts in the food and drink manufacturing sector. This commitment still stands under Ambition 2025 and a discussion will be initiated on a review of the industry wide target before 2020.

As part of our wider Five-fold Environmental Ambition aims, we have also been looking at ways of improving water use and management throughout the supply chain. In December 2011 we published a guide – Every Last Drop – setting out practical advice for businesses on what can be done to save water and manage its use effectively along the supply chain, including as individuals at home. Alongside this guide we also launched a dedicated water page on our website giving further sources of help and information along with best practice case studies. Under Ambition 2025 we will continue to deliver continuous improvement in the use of water across the whole supply chain and take action to ensure sustainable water management and stewardship.

1. Proposed in the context of the Food Industry Sustainability Strategy published by Defra in 2006.



Water is arguably the planet’s most precious and vital natural resource. The twin pressures of an ever increasing global population and the effects of climate change mean that all of us, whether at home or in the work place, share a responsibility to use it as efficiently as possible and with due regard to the needs of others. Only through such careful management will we be able to ensure that future demand is met and that the water environment and ecology it supports is safeguarded. Industry, water suppliers and consumers therefore all have a part to play. These issues are particularly important for the long term sustainability of the food and drink industry because of its reliance on a supply of freshwater for both its raw material and processing needs. Food and drink manufacturers themselves are significant users of water both as an essential ingredient in many food and drink products and also in preparation, production and cleaning processes. It is estimated that the UK food sector’s demand for water from the public water supply is about 430 mega litres[2] per day, and directly abstracts about 260 mega litres of water per day[3]. Defra estimates that this amounts to about 10% of all industrial use.

Water an essential ingredient in many food and drink products. It is also used in food and drink preparation, production and cleaning processes. However, the food and drink manufacturing industry can help to conserve water to alleviate water stress providing food safety and hygiene is not compromised.

2. A mega litre is 1,000,000 litres.
3. Report of the Food Industry Sustainability Strategy Champions Group of Water, May 2007


Last reviewed: 11 Oct 2016