Strawberries growing in a polytunnel

WRAP calls on more food and drink businesses to act on water this World Food Day

16 October 2023

Since last year the Water Roadmap has seen:

  • An increase in businesses undertaking risk mapping (up from 43% to 56%); ​
  • An increase in the number of businesses funding collective action projects (up from 17 to 25);​
  • And more businesses signed up to the Water Roadmap (up from 55 to 60). 

What is the Water Roadmap?

In November 2021, WRAP launched the Water Roadmap with the support of 65 stakeholders and food businesses, embarking on a collective journey to address water risk in our food & drink supply chain. The Roadmap is a key implementation framework for the Courtauld Commitment 2030 water target that 50% of the UK’s fresh food is sourced from areas with sustainable water management.

What is the story?

Water is a shared resource, supporting important ecosystems and communities, as well as food & drink production. Climate change and associated extreme weather events have led to an increase in both drought and flooding. Freshwater quality continues to be put at risk from human activities including agriculture.

This World Food Day the FAO (Food & Agriculture Organisation) is calling on us all to stop taking water for granted. What we eat, and how that food is produced all affect water.

  • By 2030, global demand for water is expected to double (FAO) while the UN (United Nations) predicts a 40% water shortfall. 
  • 70% of global freshwater withdrawals are for agriculture.​
  • The UK imports more than 80% of its fruit and 40% of its vegetables, predominantly from water-stressed countries.​
  • In England, fewer than 20% of our rivers are in good overall health and agriculture impacts the most, affecting nearly two-thirds of our river water bodies.

Catherine David, Director of Behaviour Change and Business Programmes at WRAP, said: "There has been progress moving towards the 2023 Water Roadmap targets, but there is still much work to do if we’re to stay on track and address the negative impacts of producing our food in already water stressed areas. We welcome the efforts made to date but urgently need more businesses to move towards water risk awareness and action."

Coen Frederiks, Manager Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program at IDH, said: “We are really pleased to be working alongside WRAP in areas of shared priority like Spain and Peru. By bringing our respective members, networks, resources and expertise together, we can build a much stronger base for success. We look forward to collaborating further and working together to make our value chains more sustainable and more resilient.” ​

What has the Roadmap has already achieved?

  • 60 businesses signed up.
  • 24 businesses funding collective action projects.

Highlights from July 2022 to June 2023

  • Increase in businesses undertaking risk mapping (up from 43% to 56%). ​
  • Increase in businesses funding collective action projects (up from 17 to 25).
  • More businesses signed up to the Water Roadmap (up from 55 to 60). 
  • 100 local stakeholders and over 800 farmers engaged through collective action on the ground and more than 300 farm visits carried out.
  • 63 farm management plans in place in at-risk food sourcing areas, and 60 on the ground interventions adopted such as nature-based solutions.
  • Over 385 million litres of water replenished to communities and nature by our collective action projects.

WRAP urges food businesses to sign up to the Water Roadmap. In doing so they are committing to conduct water risk assessments and map water risk hotspots in their operations and supply chain; set water related targets and report on progress. This activity will help them with climate-related financial disclosures like TCFD. Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) has recently estimated that, for agri-food businesses, the cost of inaction on water security is almost 20 times the cost of action.

We urge businesses to join the Water Roadmap and start addressing water risk as a commercial imperative.

Notes to Editor