Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are the three basic meals we have every day, and we take them for granted. In many third-world countries, one meal a day is already good enough. Every 2.3 seconds, a child dies as a result of malnutrition, and 24,000 people die from hunger each day. Scarcity of water is the main reason for this worldwide hunger. Therefore, saving clean water to increase food production is the primary way to stop world hunger.
Almost all the water on the planet occurs as saltwater in the oceans. Freshwater constitutes only 3% of the global water resource with over 2% of it frozen in glaciers of polar or mountainous regions. Hence, only less than 1% of the water resource is liquid freshwater. Practically all the freshwater occurs as groundwater. Groundwater is a highly useful and abundant resource, but it takes thousands of years to replenish. If groundwater is extracted too intensively, it will become depleted.
Our Earth indeed is a water planet, and our life revolves around it. At least a cup of water a day is needed for you to stay healthy. For your gardens to stay healthy, you need to tend the gardens with care and the right amount of water. After tending the garden, you most likely need to take a shower to wash away your sweat, or to bathe in the bathtub to relieve your fatigue. What do you do with your loads of dirty clothes? You wash them with detergent and water. Around 190~380 liters of water are used daily by each person in the United States, and 98% of the water we use at home comes from aquifers.
Agricultural irrigation presently accounts for 70% of all water withdrawals worldwide. How many gallons of water are used for livestock and agriculture? It takes 60 gallons of water to produce one pound of potatoes, while 1,849 gallons are used to produce just a hundred grams (0.22 pounds) of beef. Therefore, 8,495 gallons of water is needed to produce one pound of beef.
The beef industry did a highly specious study to try to counteract this fact. That study determined that only 441 gallons of water were required to produce a pound of beef. They backed up their calculations with the following reasons:
1. Water evaporated at certain points during the process.
2. Water was “returned” to the water table after being used to grow plant feed.
3. Water was “returned” to the water table by the means of urea and excrement from cows.
They argued that this water was used, not “lost” but rather “recycled” and so therefore could be subtracted from the total amount of water actually used in beef production. Of course, evaporation and cow droppings do not really replace the water pumped from the aquifers that takes thousands of years to develop. Using the beef industry’s math calculation, the amount of water to grow a pound of potatoes would be only 2 gallons.
John Robbins, the best-selling author of
Diet for a New America and a leading advocate of vegetarianism, said, “It’s wasteful and irresponsible to squander our precious resources on a luxury item like meat.” In developing countries, agriculture accounts for as much as 70% to 90% of the freshwater used. The Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) senior scientist, Malin Falkenmark, remarks that a meat-based diet uses up to 320,000 gallons of water a year, which is 70 times more than the 4,745 gallons used per year in an average American household. Though this was not reported in the mainstream American press, the Swedish study demonstrated that the “water required to grow food to feed one person on the Standard American Diet can feed 32 people eating a healthier plant-based diet.” Figures 2 and 3 are charts comparing meat and plant food production.
Figure 2: Percentage of Corn Grown in the U.S. Eaten
Figure 3: Products Grown on an Acre (in Pounds)
So how does one reduce the amount of water needed to grow food? It is simple: become a lacto-vegetarian or a vegan. Becoming a lacto-vegetarian can reduce the amount of water needed for food from 320,000 gallons a year to around 10,000 gallons a year. 100 million people could be fed adequately using land freed if Americans reduced their intake of meat by 10%.
Since only clean water is useful, people not only need to save water, but also protect it from pollution. Many water-saving tips can be done at home:
A) Repair dripping faucets by replacing washers. If the water faucet is dripping at the rate of one drop per second, it is going to waste 10,220 liters (around 2,700 gallons) per year, which will add to the cost of water and sewer utilities.
B) Operate automatic dishwashers and clothes washers only when they are fully loaded and properly set the water level for the size of load you are using. To further save our limited energy, use outdoor lines to dry your laundry whenever possible.
C) Take shorter showers. A ten-minute shower uses 190 liters of water. By reducing your time to five minutes, you can save 95 liters of water. Keep a designated bucket in every shower room to catch the cold water at the beginning of a shower. One may catch seven or eight liters of cold water each shower. This cold water can be used for household cleaning or watering plants. Also, do not let water run while shaving or washing face. Brush teeth first while waiting for water to get hot, then wash or shave after filling the basin.
D) By adding food coloring to the tank, one can check for toilet tank leaks. If the toilet is leaking, color should appear in the toilet within 30 minutes. Check the toilet for worn out, corroded, or bent parts. Flush as soon as the test is done, since food coloring may stain the tank.
E) Kitchen sink disposals require lots of water to operate properly. Start a compost pile to dispose food waste instead of using a garbage disposal. It will also reduce solid wastes. Garbage disposals also can add 50% to the volume of solids in a septic tank, which can lead to malfunctions and maintenance problems.
A great way to help is to share one’s knowledge about water resources and its relationship to starvation and food production as explained above. Create greater awareness of the need for water conservation among children, for young children are the future of the planet. Avoid the purchase of recreational water toys for children that require a constant stream of water. Encourage your employer to promote water conservation at the workplace. Suggest that water conservation be put in the employee orientation manual and training program, and support businesses that practice and promote water conservation. Encourage friends and neighbors to be part of a water-conscious community.
Don’t waste water just because it is someone else’s bill, such as when staying at a hotel or anywhere there is no individual water meter. Even if the saving of water is minimal, every single drop counts, for our planet has a limited amount of water resources. Every person can make a difference. Remember: “Any small thing such as a flutter of a butterfly’s wing can cause a typhoon halfway around the world.” In the world every 3.6 seconds one life is lost due to hunger. Therefore, in order to save lives, we only need to think about saving water.