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Governor Jerry Brown has declared a drought emergency for the state of California. 2013 was the driest year in the state’s history – since records started being kept about 100 years ago. State water reservoirs are critically low and farmers, lawmakers, and environmentalists’ growing concerns have gone from a slow drip to a raging storm. Activists and farmers recently joined forces and came in droves from the Central Valley to rally on the capitol steps in Sacramento, demanding action as water levels drop and anxiety levels rise.

California residents have been asked to be vigilant and cut back on household water use, but only about 4 percent of California’s water footprint is individual, personal use. A stunning 80 percent goes to agriculture, according to a recent report from the NRDC and Pacific Institute, so if we really want to talk about drastic conservation, perhaps we should look at our food choices.

Who’s Really Using all the Water?

Of the foods produced in the Golden State, the thirstiest by far are those that are derived from animals. Household impact is a trickle compared to the flood of water needed to produce meat, dairy, and eggs, especially when compared to plant foods. For example, a study at Cornell University found that producing one pound of animal protein requires about 100 times more water than producing one pound of grain protein. Another study adds to the overflow of evidence finding that the amount of water needed to produce one pound of beef is almost 1,600 gallons, compared to just 102 gallons for a pound of wheat.

Humans drink less than one gallon of water per day, but a cow can drink up to 23 gallons of water a day, according to a North Dakota State University study. That’s a huge amount of water to keep millions of animals alive.

Hidden Water Wasted in Livestock Production

Not only does it take vast amounts of water to hydrate the animals, millions of additional gallons of fresh water go to irrigate the feed for livestock, to wash excrement off the concrete floors, to clean the blood and grease from the equipment in the butchering process, and further uses that are not necessary in plant food production. For example, a dairy operation that utilizes an automatic flushing system can use up to 150 gallons of water per cow, per day, the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Services reports.

The crops we have chosen to quickly fatten up our farm animals are wasting water as well. Corn and soybeans, which represent the vast majority of livestock’s diet, are comparably cheap as a result of government subsidies. However, these crops are also exogenous; they have a deeper thirst for water than endogenous crops, which are dormant in the warm summer months when there is a high demand for water. Exogenous crops like corn and soy require more water and are therefore yet another drain on an already wasteful system of processing animal products, as a study published in Water Policy reveals.

Most people shower every day an average of about seven minutes of hot water with the showerhead flowing out about two gallons of water a minute. The Water Education Foundation calculates that every pound of California beef requires about 2,464 gallons of water to produce. You would save more water just by replacing a pound of beef with plant foods than you would by not showering for six months!

People are looking to grass-fed beef as a possible eco-alternative to commercial operations, but the grass is no greener for grass-fed animals. In fact, pasture raised animals require more water than their factory farmed cousins, because they have a higher activity level and spend more time in the sun, especially during the summer months. Grass-fed beef can also produce 50 to 60 percent more greenhouse gas emissions than their grain-eating counterparts, sometimes producing as much as four times more methane emissions than feedlot cattle, reports Science News.

Ending Water Waste Starts With You

California families are concerned and ready to take action. Responsible citizens will be taking shorter showers, shutting off the water while brushing their teeth, and only washing clothes with a full load. But what most people don’t know is the much greater impact of their diet.

Each of us has an opportunity to take action that could cut our water waste far more than any household use by reducing or eliminating animal products from our diet. It takes less water to produce one year’s worth of food for a completely plant-based diet than it does to produce one month’s worth of food for a diet with animal products.

As Californians, we know it’s healthy to eat more veggieswhole grainsbeans, and fruits. We also know that animals are suffering — living miserable, short lives in filthy, confined conditions, being cruelly treated, and brutally slaughtered. Now, we have a statewide crisis and could run out of one of life’s absolute necessities: fresh, clean water.

It may be more abstract than just turning off the tap, but the foods we choose impact our water supply. Eating more veggies, fruits and grains, and reducing or eliminating our consumption of meat, milk, and eggs will help your family decrease their environmental footprint, get healthy, help animals, and preserve enough fresh water for generations of Californians to come.

Browse through some recent posts below:

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New Zealand Takes First Step to Ban the Use of Animals for Cosmetic Testing!

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219 comments on “California’s Drought — Who’s Really Using all the Water?”

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chnlchgr
14 Hours ago

Where is the water going - illegal grow operations.


Reply
Julie Phelps
7 Days ago

It is Fracking that both waists and poisons water.


Reply
Daniel Ferra
9 Days ago

A California Residential Feed in Tariff would allow homeowners to sell their Renewable Energy to the utility, protecting our communities from Poison Water, Grid Failures, Natural Disasters, Toxic Natural Gas and Oil Fracking.


It would also create a new revenue stream for the Hard Working Taxpaying, Voting, Homeowner.


Our California Residential Feed-In Tariff should start out at 16 cents per kilowatt hour, 5 cents per kilowatt hour to the Utility for use of the Grid, 11 cents per kilowatt hour going to the Home Owner.


A California Commercial FiT in Los Angeles, Palo Alto, an Sacramento Ca. are operating NOW, paying the Business Person 17 cents cents per kilowatt hour.


Sign and Share this petition for a California Residential Feed in Tariff.
http://signon.org/sign/let-california-home-owners


Reply
Enviro-Equipment, Inc.
13 Days ago

I\'m glad that Californians are waking up to the fact that their dry state cannot support the kind of agriculture they been producing for decades now. Unfortunately this problem was caused by politicians - both past and present - who stuck their heads in the sand and failed to charge people for the groundwater the use, something which would have almost certainly destroy California\'s agro industry.

Eventually when the groundwater is almost completely depleted will the state\'s residents wake up and face the reality of their situation and force farmers to pay for the water is a draw out of the ground.


Reply
Meaningless Numbers
14 Days ago

As for actual consumption of a grass fed and grass finish steer or heifer for beef production, it helps to do some math... On the high end very thirsty beef cattle depending on breed and location drink around 20 gallons a day. They live longer than grain finish feedlot cattle, so it takes longer to get to weight, so 30 months as opposed to 18 months, therefore they consume 18,250 gallons of water over their lifetime. They yield a net of approx 500 lbs of beef, so that\'s 36.5 gallons of water per pound of beef. With pastured cattle a lot of that water is excreted as urine and manure with minerals that build soils by bolstering soil ecology (so the water actually stays in the ecosystem). Most of the dramatic number (the other 1563 gallons) is from water needed for feed or forage which is "green water.". Thus 98% of green water numbers used in water foot print calcs are not from consumption but theoretically for growing feed or forage which can either be irrigated or from rainfall...If the green water is from rainfall, the water foot print number is pretty meaningless in terms of environmental impact. So in discussing water use, you have to look where the "green" water comes from to understand the environmental impact. Rainfall falls regardless and is retained much better in healthy soils that are built faster with properly managed livestock. Plus non-irrigated perennial poly-crop grasslands keep ground cover temperatures lower which also helps keep soils healthy since soil microbes aren\'t killed off due to the heat.

So if cattle are kept on grass and managed properly and help build soils, they actually may be beneficial to the environment, not detrimental, because those healthy soils with poly cultures of long rooted perennial plants will retain more water and provide ground covers which combats drought. Rain drops that fall will be better retained. Factory animals dependent upon irrigated feed crops are a different story. They also require a lot more water than cattle and others animals on pasture. Thus how meat is raised makes a HUGE difference. People shouldn\'t eat factory raised meat for a whole myriad of reasons including poor water use and reliance on irrigated feed crops.


Reply
Meaningless Words
19 Mar 2015

Dear Meaningless Numbers:

1) Please cite some helpful peer-reviewed sources for your numbers.

2) Did you really type "Rainfall falls regardless" in response to an article about California\'s drought?

Meaningless Words
19 Mar 2015

Dear Meaningless Numbers:

1) Please cite some helpful peer-reviewed sources for your numbers.

2) Did you really type "Rainfall falls regardless" in response to an article about California\'s drought?

So Misleading
31 Mar 2015

Thank you for this! This article is so misleading. Eating grass-fed animals is one of the best things you can do for the environment, not to mention your own health.

Meaningless Numbers
14 Days ago

As for actual consumption of a grass fed and grass finish steer or heifer for beef production, it helps to do some math... On the high end very thirsty beef cattle depending on breed and location drink around 20 gallons a day. They live longer than grain finish feedlot cattle, so it takes longer to get to weight, so 30 months as opposed to 18 months, therefore they consume 18,250 gallons of water over their lifetime. They yield a net of approx 500 lbs of beef, so that\'s 36.5 gallons of water per pound of beef. With pastured cattle a lot of that water is excreted as urine and manure with minerals that build soils by bolstering soil ecology (so the water actually stays in the ecosystem). Most of the dramatic number (the other 1563 gallons) is from water needed for feed or forage which is "green water.". Thus 98% of green water numbers used in water foot print calcs are not from consumption but theoretically for growing feed or forage which can either be irrigated or from rainfall...If the green water is from rainfall, the water foot print number is pretty meaningless in terms of environmental impact. So in discussing water use, you have to look where the "green" water comes from to understand the environmental impact. Rainfall falls regardless and is retained much better in healthy soils that are built faster with properly managed livestock. Plus non-irrigated perennial poly-crop grasslands keep ground cover temperatures lower which also helps keep soils healthy since soil microbes aren\'t killed off due to the heat.

So if cattle are kept on grass and managed properly and help build soils, they actually may be beneficial to the environment, not detrimental, because those healthy soils with poly cultures of long rooted perennial plants will retain more water and provide ground covers which combats drought. Rain drops that fall will be better retained. Factory animals dependent upon irrigated feed crops are a different story. They also require a lot more water than cattle and others animals on pasture. Thus how meat is raised makes a HUGE difference. People shouldn\'t eat factory raised meat for a whole myriad of reasons including poor water use and reliance on irrigated feed crops.


Reply
Karen Lola
14 Days ago

Am Karen Lola from Scotland. I was having serious relationship problems with my boyfriend and it had resulted in him moving out to his friend’s apartment. Everything got worse because he started going to bars and strip clubs frequently with his friend, getting drunk and passing out. He always threatens me on phone whenever I call him because of all the bad advises that his friend has given him. I really love him and we had been dating for 8 years which gave us a beautiful daughter. I had also lost a lot of money on therapists until I was introduced to Dr. Trust by a friend whom he helped to marry her childhood boyfriend; this gave me total confidence and strength to get him back. I did all he asked and after 48 hours my boyfriend called me and rushed back home, things just changed between us emotionally. He has a job and stopped drinking and keeping irrelevant friends. It’s a miracle I never believed was possible because I had lost all hope until I found Dr.Trust. So that’s why I promised to share my testimony all over the universe. All thanks goes to Dr.Trust for the excessive work that he has done for me. Below is the email address in situation you are undergoing a heart break, and I assure you that as he has done mine for me, he will definitely help you too. [email protected] or [email protected] call him +2348156885231 ..


Reply
Karen Lola
14 Days ago

Am Karen Lola from Scotland. I was having serious relationship problems with my boyfriend and it had resulted in him moving out to his friend’s apartment. Everything got worse because he started going to bars and strip clubs frequently with his friend, getting drunk and passing out. He always threatens me on phone whenever I call him because of all the bad advises that his friend has given him. I really love him and we had been dating for 8 years which gave us a beautiful daughter. I had also lost a lot of money on therapists until I was introduced to Dr. Trust by a friend whom he helped to marry her childhood boyfriend; this gave me total confidence and strength to get him back. I did all he asked and after 48 hours my boyfriend called me and rushed back home, things just changed between us emotionally. He has a job and stopped drinking and keeping irrelevant friends. It’s a miracle I never believed was possible because I had lost all hope until I found Dr.Trust. So that’s why I promised to share my testimony all over the universe. All thanks goes to Dr.Trust for the excessive work that he has done for me. Below is the email address in situation you are undergoing a heart break, and I assure you that as he has done mine for me, he will definitely help you too. [email protected] or [email protected] call him +2348156885231


Reply
Jetlag___
15 Days ago

Fracking, water injection in conventional wells too and last but not least Oil refining. Refineries waste between 1 to 2 gallons to refine one gallon of gasoline. This waste water from refining and fracking can even further contaminate other fresh water sources. Why aren\'t refineries compelled to use greywater from processed public sewage instead of fresh water?


Reply
Trish Grenfell
15 Days ago

Funny how hydraulic fracking was not named as a HUGE user of this precious resource. I think CA needs the water more than the oil currently.


Reply


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