If an average person were to google “how to conserve water at home,” the results they would usually get involve the following:
Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth/ washing your hands
Flush the toilet only when going number 2
Fix leaky faucets in your house
Do not water your plants/ lawn/garden as often as you do
Take shorter showers
Something that the American people might not know is that the average American household uses about 1,500 gallons of water per person per day. However, almost half of that water consumption is associated with the consumption of meat and dairy products. In the United States alone, animal agriculture water consumption ranges from 36-74 trillion gallons of water annually. To put that in perspective, hydraulic fracturing (fracking) uses about 70-140 billion gallons annually.
It might seem absurd to think that animal agriculture uses more water than regular household activities like brushing your teeth or taking a shower. In reality, livestock water use is need for animal drinking, feedlots, dairy operations, and other farming needs. Other livestock water uses include cooling facilities for the animals and animal products such as milk, dairy sanitation, and wash down facilities, animal waste-disposal systems, and incidental water losses. In addition, plants aren’t slaughtered, a process that demands 132 gallons of water per animal carcass.
Fruit and vegetable agriculture also contributes to our water footprint, but not as significantly as animal agriculture. Actually, it takes about 3.3 gallons to produces just one tomato! Per ton, vegetable use consumes about 11,300 gallons of water and fruit takes about 38,000 gallons per ton.
In contrast, pork production consumes 121,000 gallons of water per ton; beef consumes about 145,000 gallons per ton; and butter consumes about 122,800 gallons per ton.
In California, the number one crop grown is not grown for human consumption. In the majority, alfalfa is used in cattle and pork feed. Therefore, a majority of California’s water footprint is devoted to the production of alfalfa in order to feed animals.
In reality, is this over-consumption of water really necessary? It is proven that in industrialized countries, moving towards a vegetarian diet can reduce the food-related water footprint of people by 36 percent; A vegan diet can reduce the food-related water footprint of people by 52 percent.
Almost 884 million people in the world do not have access to fresh drinking water daily. In many developing countries women spend two thirds of the day collecting water from distant, and most often polluted, sources. Environmentalists estimate that by the year 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries with complete water scarcity.
I guess the question is: is it really necessary to be feeding our growing water scarcity problem by wasting it on animal agriculture when we could be saving children who die from water-related diseases including dehydration? After all, it is proven that living on a vegan or vegetarian diet is not vitamin-deficient. So, wouldn’t it be wise to switch to a plant-based diet to not only help combat our growing water footprint, but to also save the members of third-world countries by providing them with the water that we usually grant to animal agriculture?
Not having access to clean drinking water is a human rights issue. However, our current food system puts the needs of livestock in the United States (therefore, feeding the American people) over those needs of people in third-world countries. In a nation that wastes a multitude of water annually on entertainment in water parks, privately- owned pools, or just taking long showers, it is downright ignorant of us to not help families who do not have regular access to clean drinking water.
In late April, Denmark’s Council of Ethics, a government committee, stated that the people of Denmark are “ethically obliged” to remove meat and dairy products from their diets in order to combat climate change and water scarcity. They even posed a tax on meat-products to help discourage consumption of meat. Although this tiny country’s effort to lessen the consumption of meat is a great stride in the environmental community, it would do little do lessen the world’s consumption of meat.
75 percent of Americans consider themselves to be environmentalists. Don’t you think that we should take the initiative and combat climate change by reducing out water scarcity problem and do as Denmark and impose a tax on meat and dairy products?