Countless areas around the world are experiencing drought like never before and the number of areas being affected is on the rise. Here in the United States, one such area is the state of California, which is currently experiencing one of the worst droughts on record.
In response to the alarming situation, Governor Edmund Brown has declared a state of emergency, and President Obama has pledged $183 million in emergency funding. In an Op-Ed article to The New York Times, Professor James McWilliams examines the amount of water that’s needed to raise agricultural crops and its relation to California’s current drought-stricken status.
In a state that uses about 80 percent of its water for agricultural purposes, the majority of the water being used comes from lakes, rivers and aquifers, which is referred to as “blue water.” Vegetables use about 11,300 gallons per ton of blue water; starchy roots, about 4,200 gallons per ton; and fruit, about 38,800 gallons per ton.
Although California produces nearly half of the fruit and vegetables grown in the U.S., when the water usage stats for these crops are compared to the amount of water needed to produce animal products, one can clearly see who the water guzzlers are. Pork consumes 121,000 gallons of blue water per ton of meat produced; beef, about 145,000 gallons per ton; and butter uses some 122,800 gallons per ton.
Surprisingly though, leading California’s water consumption comes from a single plant — alfalfa. The majority of alfalfa is not grown for human consumption but to feed livestock. Over a million acres of California land and tons of blue water is used to cultivate alfalfa, which is fed to beef and dairy cattle.
Here’s another kicker…the alfalfa is not even being consumed by livestock here in the U.S., it’s being shipped to Asia. “Alfalfa growers are now exporting some 100 billion gallons of water a year from this drought-ridden region to the other side of the world in the form of alfalfa. All as more Asians are embracing the American-style, meat-hungry diet.” says McWilliams.
So what’s the solution?…decreasing one’s water footprint of course. Reducing one’s consumption of animal products and ultimately eliminating all animal products from one’s diet will save thousands of gallons of water every year. Adopting a vegetarian diet reduces a person’s water footprint by almost 60 percent and even more so by eating a vegan diet.
Take the pledge today!…to reduce your water footprint and the amount of animal products in your diet. The planet will thank you, your body will thank you and so will the billions of animals who will be sparred a life of suffering and a violent death.