We quantify the impact of food consumption on local and foreign water resources through an indicator of the environmental value of the riverine water.
This indicator takes into account both the local environmental relevance of the fluvial area where water is withdrawn (biodiversity richness, riparian vegetation, sediment transport, etc) and the downstream effects of water withdrawals.
In the 1986–2013 period, food consumption has more than doubled its impact on foreign riverine environments, but still the international trade reduces the pressure of food consumption on global river system by 11%, as compared to an ideal situation where all food is produced locally.
We also show the geography of country (or individual) responsibility on the environmental changes of world rivers. Hotspots of food-related river-environment degradation are found in Australia, Pakistan, South Africa, and Spain.