Americans don’t usually think about their water consumption. Blithely taking daily showers, slurping coffee, eating, shirking on jeans and T-shirts, all require water consumption.
Daily water consumption estimates fluctuate from 100 gallons a day from the EPA to 176 gallons per day from consumer watchdog groups. That doesn’t include water estimates for food, clothing and other activities of daily life.
As we look to the deepening Western drought, and the salad bowl that is California, is there a way the rest of us can help? Can we be more thoughtful of our water intake, perhaps with just a few adjustments?
Almonds suck irrigation systems dry according to several reports. It takes 600 gallons of water to produce just one pound of almonds. Yikes! However, compare how much water it takes to produce one pound of other types of food:
- Beef: 1,799 gallons
- Milk: 880 gallons
- Pecans: 765 gallons
- Dozen Eggs: 636 gallons
- Almonds: 600 gallons
- Walnuts: 290 gallons
- Corn: 146 gallons
- Lettuce: 30 gallons
Or for clothes we regularly wear:
- Cotton T-shirt: 750 gallons
- Denim Jeans: 2,900 gallons
We’re not even considering other factors like pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, packaging, or transportation costs. The list is unwieldy no? Makes you want to curl up in a ball in your organic backyard garden wearing nothing but hand-me-downs. OK, maybe that’s just me.
How we can painlessly decrease water usage
If you’re reading this article you’re probably already aware of water usage, and you have a desire to use less. Here are some easy ways to cut down on water consumption through the food we eat.
Eat more plants. Plants use less water than animal sources, just look at the difference between a pound of lettuce and a pound of beef. Consider whittling down your consumption of animal proteins or switching from meat to more sustainable animal sources like eggs or dairy. Of course, you can always go vegan or vegetarian.
Don’t buy bottled water. This is going to sound crazy, but quite a few brands bottle water in California. Brands such as Aquafina, Dasani, Arrowhead, and Crystal Geyser all source their water from either municipal or groundwater sources from some of the most drought-stricken areas. If you must buy bottled water, try to avoid the drought zones.
Eat less processed foods. Processing takes additional resources including water. The closer the food is to its original state, the less water needed.
Buy less food. We throw out about 25 percent of the groceries we buy. A little meal planning and we not only help the water supply, but an average family of four could save as much as $2,275 per year.
Cook from scratch. By cooking meals at home, we can save water resources. Not only will the food be less processed, we can often reuse the water for other purposes. For instance, the water for steamed veggies can be used to water plants. Just make sure any reused water isn’t salted, that can harm garden or houseplants.
Be savvy when you clean. Use dishpans to hold water and full dishwashers to save on water, electricity and fuel costs. Most new dishwashers only need food to be scraped off, so save time and don’t rinse your dishes!
A recent study concluded California has one year of water left. They are scrambling, building desalinization plants to use ocean water and with moderate-to-severe water restrictions in nearly every county. Farmers have found their water rights worth more than their crops. In some areas, they are selling the rights back to local governments and letting fields lay fallow.
If we cast a wary eye on California, it’s due to water and food security. Hits to their crops will affect us all in the form of shortages and higher food costs. Who knows when our own region might face a similar drought?
What do you think about water and our food supply? Do you try to conserve water even if you’re not in a drought area?
LINK: Why we need water, fun facts about our bodies
Sources for gallons of water per pound of food statistics: