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You care about the world’s precious water resources: you turn off the faucet when you’re brushing your teeth and you definitely don’t take twenty-minute long showers. While these acts, along with the use of appliances that save water like toilets and shower heads, are fantastic ways to conserve water … if you really want to make a difference with water conservation, then there is a bigger piece of the puzzle to consider.

Every food and beverage product we consume: from soda to pineapples to cheese crackers and pork chops, etc. requires water for its production. Obviously, fruits and veggies need water. That’s a given, but surprisingly, there is another group of foods that is the biggest water guzzler of them all and that is animal products. Meat, dairy, and eggs require more water to “produce” than any other food out there.

So exactly how does eating these products increase your water footprint? Here’s the scoop!

The Average Family

According to the Unites States Environmental Protection Agency, an average family of four uses about 400 gallons of water a day for various indoor activities, including taking showers, washing dishes, doing laundry and flushing the toilet. This statistic, however, doesn’t even begin to take into consideration how our food consumption affects our water footprint. If each member of this hypothetical family of four ate a cheeseburger for dinner, the household’s water consumption that day would shoot up to over 7,000 gallons depending on the size of the burgers, the amount of cheese, etc. Why is this?


Water Consumption in Animal Agriculture

The very fact that animals raised for food are alive means they are going to consume water, either directly or through their food. Think about how much you eat and then think about a cow’s appetite. They eat a lot – and we eat a lot of animals!

Farmed animals eat 70 percent of the grains and cereals grown in the United States and those grains have to be watered to grow! In fact, it takes 100 calories of grain to produce three calories worth of beef. And it requires 1,799 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat.

To put that into perspective, an average U.S. swimming pool contains 22,500 gallons of water. A swimming pool’s worth of water would produce 12 pounds of beef. Let’s say one 1,000 pound steer yields 610 pounds of beef. That means a swimming pool’s worth of water is required to produce just two percent of that steer’s beef. Or to produce all 610 pounds of beef, 49 swimming pools worth of water or over one million gallons.

According to the American Meat Institute itself, in 2012 America produced 26 billion pounds of beef. So it took roughly 65 trillion gallons of water to produce beef in 2012. And that is just beef.

How Animal Agriculture Affects Your Overall Water Footprint

So, what does all this mean in terms of an individual’s water footprint? Unsurprisingly, our food and beverages make up about half of our personal water footprints. Fortunately, each one of us can make a huge impact by simply rethinking our diet.

Just imagine if everyone cut their meat consumption by one-third. If you eat one-third less meat, then you use one-third less water. We could go even further and cut our meat consumption in half and the impact would be that much greater. The truth is, whether you decide to eat less meat or you abstain from it all together, we all can make a big difference on our individual water footprint with the power of our forks and knives.

As the leading organization at the forefront of the conscious consumerism movement, it is One Green Planet’s view that our food choices have the power to heal our broken food system, give species a fighting chance for survival, and pave the way for a truly sustainable future.

By choosing to eat more plant-based foods, you can drastically cut your carbon footprint, save precious water supplies and help ensure that vital crop resources are fed to people, rather than livestock. With the wealth of available plant-based options available, it has never been easier to eat with the planet in mind.

Click on the graphic below for more information



Lead image source: Wikimedia Commons

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14 comments on “How Does Eating Meat Impact Your Water Footprint?”

Click to add comment
Jeff Biss
10 Months Ago

Meat is murder, that\'s all that is important. The meat industry is a holocaust. We don\'t need meat to sustain life or health and so there is no moral reason to slaughter another sentient living thing to satisfy a mere desire.

Camille Saey
3 Years Ago

It's the slaughtering of the animals that spoiles a lot of water.. We should all eat insects instead of meat! problem solved.. :-P

Tony Feller
3 Years Ago

"There is no such thing as a meat eating environmentalist" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWRvIGI5rJY

Mandy Leetch
15 Oct 2014

wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong.

James Sucher
16 Oct 2014

Keep telling yourself that, Mandy. Whatever gets you to sleep at night.

Steffi Moreau
16 Oct 2014

There are always those who refuse to see what's going on.

Stephanie Georgiou
3 Years Ago

Glenn Edwards

Megan Merlene
3 Years Ago

Kody Severino

Jacqueline Mink
3 Years Ago

funny how they don't look at how humans impact water usage as it is used for so many things. And humans are so good at polluting the water we do have considering the fact that what you flush down the loo will be what we'll be drinking in future. And medications that we take is being found in the bodies of fish and other creatures that live in the water, and then people eat the fish. Humans are the ones destroying the planet no one to blame but ourselves for this mess we are in.

Jason Sopotyk
3 Years Ago

Well Mandy I guess all of us vegans should just give up almonds and start eating meat again.

Mandy Leetch
3 Years Ago

It depends on what your meat eats, and what meats you eat. Grass fed cows don't use nearly as much water as grain fed cows. Goats and sheep don't need nearly as much water as cows. Fowl and rabbits don't use as much water as sheep and goats. Insects and fish are negligible in the water footprint for their production. You know what takes an insane amount of water to produce? Soda. Almonds. Cotton T-shirts.

Lulu Diaz
15 Oct 2014

I'm glad to hear that you can afford to eat grass fed cows, goats, and sheep and don't use cotton products or drink sodas, but you are the small percentage of people who can,

Mandy Leetch
15 Oct 2014

I agree that those things should not be a privilege, Lulu. I work in the local food movement to help achieve food justice and access to nutrition for all people.

James Sucher
16 Oct 2014

Pfft. Food justice? You eat meat.

Mandy Leetch
16 Oct 2014

Your world view is awfully narrow James. Animals are an important part of nutrient cycling, and their consumption is an important part of optimal human nutrition. I am fighting to change the system as it stands and make life better for humans AND animals. You're just judging people.

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