America's biggest food production companies face a growing threat of water scarcity, according to a new report from Ceres, an environmental sustainability group.
Producing food, after all, requires more water than almost any other business on Earth. And the outlook isn't pretty: One-third of food is grown in areas of high or extremely high water stress, while pollution and climate change are further limiting supplies of clean water around the world.
And yet two-thirds of the 37 U.S. food companies assessed in the report aren't even engaging farmers on this issue, says Brooke Barton, co-author of the report and leader of Ceres' water program.
Farming can be a major contributor to water pollution through runoff from chemicals and manure. Because food companies depend on clean water, they have an incentive to help farmers keep water in mind.
"A lot of the food companies are frankly asleep at the wheel," Barton says. "Many have not even begun to look at the water impacts associated with the farmers, the dairies, and the ranches that they source from."