I know you have heard it before. “Eat Green,” “Eat in a sustainable manner,” “avoid all meat,” “It’s good for the planet,” and so on.
While every one of those statements is true, it’s important to understand why.
My entire dissertation research was on food security and climate change. And, while I will not stand on my soapbox in this post about the evils of industrialized countries and how much pollution we emit, I will discuss the closer-to-home issues of water use.
I live in California. We are in a SEVERE DROUGHT, several years in the making. Rains have been dismal, snow-pack has been even worse. While there is flooding in the East and South, that water does not sink into the ground and replenish aquifers or ground water, instead it runs off the land and brings soil with it.
Here, the lack of precipitation has led to an annual sinking of the land in the Central Valley, the breadbasket of our country, where a large share of the food we eat is produced. The lack of precipitation also puts us at risk for another “Dust Bowl.” (Read: Barren land, dusty, really not fun…)
This sinking is a result of farms digging into the ground and draining the aquifers, which take millenia to refill, of water to grow the food, feed the flocks, and otherwise feed our never-ending need for meat, almonds, and other water-intensive foods.
This weblink below, offers information on water-use for a variety of foods.
Over 80% of our water-use in the United States is for growing food; so, changing our eating habits, may in fact, have a dramatic impact on our future food security.
Now, my entire dissertation research was about climate change and food security. Here is a link where if you are interested, can you review my research:
But, just to offer a few items:
- Bananas require 90 gallons of water per pound
- 1 glass of wine ~4-5 ounces requires 25 gallons of water
- Sugar requires 202 gallons per pound
- Sheep meat requires ~1200 gallons per pound (to grow the food it eats)
- Almonds require ~1 gallon PER ALMOND!!!
- milk requires ~1020 gallons of water per each gallon of milk
- while not food, 1 pound of leather requires ~2,000 gallons of water
- 1 egg requires ~50 gallons of water
- chocolate requires ~2,000 gallons per pound.
- finally, not to bore you, chicken requires ~491 gallons per pound.
- and the list goes on, and on, and on…
So, why is this important?
The more almonds, meat, and other super water-intensive foods we eat, (including apparently chocolate), the higher our water foot print. Similarly, the more of these foods we eat (especially meat), the more methane is created and spewed into our atmosphere, in fact, animals create as much carbon as all the driving around the globe in 1 year.
However, that is a different article.
So, why should we care?
While it is probably raining SOMEWHERE around the globe at every moment of every day, the HUGE majority of the globe’s water is unusable, for drinking or for growing food.
The oceans make up the vast majority of water (salty unpalatable, unsafe water), somewhere around 99% of all the world’s water. The other 1% of pure potable water is primarily tied up in (melting) glaciers around the world, either in the arctic, antarctic, or greenland ice-sheets, or in undergound aquifers that are being sucked dry as we speak. All the other drinkable, farmable, usable water, found in streams, rivers, and lakes, makes up probably less than 1/4 of 1% of the world’s water.
Thus, what we eat, can make a difference in the world’s water. It is significantly more efficient to eat a plant-based diet, than it is to eat a characteristically typical American/Western diet.
This is crucial because, when we run out of usable water, and we are quickly doing that, we will be limited, and possibly even unable to grow sufficient (if any) food to feed ourselves.
Yes, this is a climate issue, this is a social justice issue, and this is a food-security issue.
If we westerners continue on the path we are going, not only will we continue our cycle of chronic disease (diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease), but we will also hasten our risk of food-insecurity; seemingly opposing issues, and yet, not really.
I encourage you to eat much less meat, and if you do eat meat, eat sustainably-grown meat, meat that is pasture fed, meat that is humanely treated, because these usually go hand-in-hand. Pasture-fed meat typically require less water and typically create less methane. If you do eat fish, make sure they not over-fished or that are line-pole caught. You can get more information at Monterey Bay Aquarium: http://www.seafoodwatch.org/
If we all reduced our consumption of high-water foods, we would do “good” by our water resources, and our planet in general. So, please consider how you eat…so that our next generation, my son, your kids, and grandkids, can live on a survivable, sustainable, livable planet.
And remember…for more information on how to feed those children and grandchildren, see my E-Book on amazon!
“The Perfect Baby Diet”