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Last year, a barrel containing a dead body and other eerie discoveries, like a World War II-era boat and dozens of vessels, washed up on the shores of Lake Mead, 30 miles east of Las Vegas. These macabre findings are more than just intriguing stories; they’re warning signs of a crisis looming over the Colorado River, which supplies water and hydropower to 40 million Americans.
The Colorado River’s crisis is due to a Climate change-induced “megadrought,” which has caused higher evaporation rates and a drastic reduction in water supply. Lake Mead, along with Lake Powell, stores water for the lower states, Mexico, and around 20 Indigenous reservations. Currently, Lake Mead is at a meager 29% capacity. Although heavy snowfall in the Rocky Mountains will provide some relief, it won’t be enough to prevent the lakes from reaching “dead pool” status when water levels are too low to flow through the dams.
To avoid this fate, the federal government has urged states to cut water usage. However, individual efforts to conserve water are unlikely to make a significant impact. Residential water use accounts for just 13% of water drawn from the Colorado River. Instead, the vast majority of water goes to farmers for irrigating crops. Surprisingly, 70% of the river’s water is used to grow alfalfa, hay, corn silage, and other grasses for cattle and dairy production. This finding highlights the environmental impact of meat and dairy production.
For example, in Utah, 68% of the state’s available water is used for growing alfalfa for livestock feed, contributing only 0.2% of the state’s income. Similarly, in California, a large portion of the water from the Colorado River goes to the Imperial Valley, primarily for growing alfalfa and grasses for livestock. In Arizona, Phoenix’s backup water supply is being drained to grow alfalfa for Saudi Arabia’s largest dairy company.
As Climate change continues to strain water supplies, it’s crucial to recognize the connection between our diets and the environment. The West’s water crisis is not only due to limited water availability but also because of the allocation of water resources to low-value crops like alfalfa, which are used for beef and dairy production – two significant contributors to Climate change.
So, how can we help? It’s time to rethink our diets and make sustainable food choices. By reducing meat and dairy consumption, we can lower our environmental impact and conserve precious water resources. Share this information with your friends and family, and encourage them to adopt more plant-based diets.
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Easy Ways to Help the Planet:
- Eat Less Meat: Download Food Monster, the largest plant-based Recipe app on the App Store, to help reduce your environmental footprint, save animals and get healthy. You can also buy a hard or soft copy of our favorite vegan cookbooks.
- Reduce Your Fast Fashion Footprint: Take initiative by standing up against fast fashion Pollution and supporting sustainable and circular brands like Tiny Rescue that raise awareness around important issues through recycled zero-waste clothing designed to be returned and remade over and over again.
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- Do What You Can: Reduce waste, plant trees, eat local, travel responsibly, reuse stuff, say no to single-use plastics, recycle, vote smart, switch to cold water laundry, divest from fossil fuels, save water, shop wisely, Donate if you can, grow your food, volunteer, conserve energy, compost, and don’t forget about the microplastics and microbeads lurking in common household and personal care products!