A glass half-full mindset for saving water


The Water Heroes taking action for the sustainable use of our water resources

Challenging everyone to save water resources in all facets of their lives, these water heroes are pushing the boundaries in their fields. Chef Angel León, for example, highlights how elements from the ocean can serve as alternative ingredients to over-exploited land resources. ©FAO

16/10/2023

Water makes up over 50 percent of our bodies.

Water covers the majority of our Earth’s surface.

Water is life, and water is food. It is everything and everywhere, but it is not infinite.

Nearly three-quarters of all freshwater is used for agriculture, which is why transforming the way we grow our food and generate agricultural products has the biggest potential for impact.

Approximately 2.4 billion people currently live in countries that are stressed for water; yet, global water demand for agriculture is expected to increase by 35 percent by 2050. From the food to the fashion industries, we often take this fundamental element for granted.

This World Food Day, we are drawing attention to water and some of the individuals already taking action to manage this precious resource wisely and inspire others.

Angel León – a chef seeking sustainable marine ingredients

In 2008, Angel León revolutionized the culinary scene with the world’s first menu based on phytoplankton, also known as microalgae. This Michelin-starred chef believes that oceans offer us a world of possibilities for new tastes and that underutilized aquatic species should be explored for creating innovative food dishes.

Fifteen years ago, Angel started using marine phytoplankton as an ingredient in his world-famous dishes. This little-known ingredient is now used in restaurants in 25 countries.

He aspires to raise the same awareness for the concept of ocean farming, where a type of grain is harvested from marine eelgrass, which is said to be more nutritious than rice and does not require freshwater to grow. His ultimate hope is that the world will become more curious about oceans and use these resources sustainably.

Left/Top: Olivia Mandle’s is a voice for the sea and all the creatures within it. With this passion, she invented the Jelly Cleaner, a net to clean up microplastics in our waters. ©Sofía Moro. Right/Bottom: An athlete fighting climate change and water scarcity, Michael Haddad is redefining the impossible, completing an artic walk in spite of being paralyzed from the chest down. ©Dan Celius.

Olivia Mandle – a youth advocate of the sea

A two-year-old Olivia Mandle puts on her first pair of flippers, a snorkel and goggles and swims in the Mediterranean Sea around her home country of Spain to discover a world she had never seen. At the age of 12, Olivia begins the battle to clean microplastics in the sea and invents the Jelly Cleaner, a small net made from old ballet stockings and recycled materials which, when dragged through the water, collects microplastics.

Olivia is now 16 and is on a mission to raise awareness for ocean life by showing the impact of waste in our ecosystems.

Her first beach-and-sea clean-up on Costa Brava attracted over a hundred people to her seafront town. In 2022, 600 people including divers, paddle boarders and beachcombers, showed up to support the initiative. It took them less than an hour to collect more than 300 kilograms of waste.

Michael Haddad – an athlete’s fight against water scarcity and climate change

What do you consider the impossible? Can you defy it?

Michael Haddad did. Paraplegic since he was six years old, Michael has no function of his legs and uses an exoskeleton – a full-body brace – and crutches to move around. But that did not stop him from completing a five-kilometre walk in the arctic at the site of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault – the world’s backup seeds’ facility in Norway.

This Regional Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme carried with him seed samples from 12 Arab countries, prepared in coordination with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), to deposit in this vault.

In stressing the issue of water scarcity in the Middle East, Michael points out how seawater intrusion into agricultural areas is of increasing concern, particularly around the Nile, a breadbasket area of the region.

This Lebanese athlete is bringing attention to the effects of climate change and the impact it is having on food security, especially in the Middle East and for people with disabilities.

Bela Gil advocates for using sustainable, seasonal and local ingredients to create delicious recipes, while reducing food and water waste. ©FAO/ Alessandra Benedetti

Bela Gil – A restaurateur encouraging conscientious consumption

If you step into Bela Gil’s sustainable plant-based restaurant in Brazil, you can witness how this chef has incorporated agroecology in every aspect of her restaurant – including the use of natural plant-based dyes for the uniforms.

She believes in holding restaurants and chefs socially responsible when it comes to using ingredients that are sustainable, seasonal and local. For example, she uses local, organic nuts and seeds, and pulses — which requires less water to produce than other foods— in her plant-based menu. 

She believes in building consumer awareness around healthy diets while mitigating food waste in her recipes by using leftovers because ultimately less food waste is less water waste.

These water heroes are pushing the boundaries in their fields, challenging everyone everywhere to be conscious about saving water in all aspects of their lives. And they are not alone. Chefs from around the globe and other individuals worldwide are also taking water action to be mindful of the resources they use.

Your water action can begin today. Make a commitment to reduce waste of water and food in your life starting now!

Water is life; water is food. It is a driving force for people, economies and nature and the foundation of our food systems. But this precious resource is not infinite. In the run up to World Food Day on October 16, we take the opportunity to thank the #FoodHeroes who are taking #WaterAction to manage water wisely, while providing food for us now and in the future - leaving no one behind


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2. Zero hunger, 6. Clean water and sanitation, 12. Responsible consumption and production