RECENT reports highlighting the large quantities of water needed to produce meat and dairy products are well wide of the mark in Wales, says a farming union.

The Farmers' Union of Wales states it’s mainly rain water which irrigates the lush pastures and such reports are based on global figures which group together the extensively reared cattle and sheep of Wales with the intensive farms of the US.

“Here, the majority of stock benefit from green water, the world-wide definition of the rainfall that is used at the place where it falls,” said FUW policy officer Charlotte Priddy.

Although no studies currently focus on Wales, one looking at beef and lamb water footprints in England showed 84 per cent and 97 per cent respectively is ‘green’, that is evapotranspiration of rainfall on crop and grassland.

“It is so important to consider water use in context," added Charlotte Priddy.

"In a temperate, wet climate such as Wales, grassland water requirements are adequately met by this green water from rainfall.” Even when grey water is considered, more than 80 per cent of water consumption for beef and lamb production in the UK is rainfall.

“Meanwhile, British supermarkets are selling thousands of tonnes of avocados from Chile, where villagers claim water is being diverted from illegal pipes to irrigate their crops, causing wells to dry up,” she added.

It takes 74 gallons of water to produce one pound of avocados.

“By eating local, seasonal produce wherever possible, following the full story of the foods you eat, you can have peace of mind about water use and also reduce carbon emissions,” said Charlotte.

Water use worldwide is split into three categories, green, blue and grey water.

Green water is where requirements are adequately met by rainfall.

Blue water is water that is abstracted from water resources such as rivers and groundwater, and grey water is defined as freshwater required to dilute pollution.