Being from Southern California, and dealing with water rationing, I have had to be more conscious of my water usage. Take short showers, turn off the faucet when shampooing, putting on soap, or brushing teeth, no more playing in the hose, switching to gardens to plants that thrive in dry climates, etc. Unfortunately, California’s drought seems to never end, nor does it seem as if it will end any time soon. Every citizen is called to do their part in conserving water – to do as much as they can to save water- but is it really helping? I decided that I should probably look into how much water is actually being saved if consumers cut back their water usage.
It turns out that in most of California only 14% of the water usage is municipal, 33% is environmental (wildlife and nature preserves, rivers, etc), and a whopping 53% goes toward agriculture. Ok yeah, cutting back on municipal water usage by 35% can save a lot of water! But making farmers use their water more efficiently or conserve it by 5% will save just as much.
Of course citizens should continue to conserve water – being wasteful does not help the situation, but the water conservation should not be focused on citizens being the main culprit, but everybody should be called to change their ways in order to conserve water. For starters, they should cut back on foods that require the most water to grow: meat. For every pound: beef takes 2011 gallons of water, sheep meat takes 1247 gallons, pork takes 780 gallons, goat meat takes 661 gallons, and bovine leather requires 2048 gallons per pound (more than even beef). Even the plant foods that require the most gallons of water – rice (299), dates (273), soybeans (206), and wheat (138) – do not take up nearly as much water as the production of meat does. Other fruits and vegetables use up even less water! For example, peaches take only 109 gallons, bananas use 95, oranges use 73, potatoes use 34, lettuce and tomatoes each use around 27 gallons per pound produced. That is an extremely drastic difference.
Not only does meat use up the most water per pound of production, but it also is the number one cause of water pollution and ocean dead zones. The reason for this is that because of the overconsumption, overproduction, and continuously rising demand of meat, nearly half of the land in the U.S. is taken up by livestock. The animals produce millions of pounds of excrement every seven minutes (collectively) and the farms and treatment plants do not have enough resources to properly dispose of all of it. There is too much to be treated and the treatment plants get leaks all the time and the waste will run off into streams and oceans.
Besides this, there are many other environmental disasters being caused by this unsustainable demand for animal products. By consuming a lot less of it, or even opting out entirely, demand for these products will decrease, therefore production will decrease. This would considerably help the drought and there would be far less water pollution, which means we would have more CLEAN water and just a lot more water in general.
Written by Kristen Toft, ESLLC 2915-2016
Andersen, Kip, and Keegan Kuhn. “Facts and Sources.” COWSPIRACY. Animals United Movement, 2014. Web. 15 Nov. 2015. <http://www.cowspiracy.com/facts/>.
Mount, Jeffrey, Emma Freeman, and Jay Lund. “Water Use in California.”(PPIC Publication). Public Policy Institute of California 2015, July 2014. Web. 15 Nov. 2015. <http://www.ppic.org/main/publication_show.asp?i=1108>.
“Product Gallery.” Product Gallery. Water Footprint Network, n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2015. <http://waterfootprint.org/en/resources/interactive-tools/product-gallery/>.
Sage, Mike. “Meat Is the Huge Water Waster | Loma Prieta Chapter.” Meat Is the Huge Water Waster | Loma Prieta Chapter. N.p., Apr. 2014. Web. 15 Nov. 2015. <http://lomaprieta.sierraclub.org/loma-prietan/story/meat-huge-water-waster/3634>.