The River Flows in Food

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Vivian Wu

More stories from Vivian Wu

Crazy Rich Asians
October 3, 2018

  Many people believe that water waste is a result of long showers and running sinks, but what most people don’t know is how much of water is actually being used in order to produce the foods we consume.

  Agriculture is the leading consumer in water utilizing around 70 percent of accessible freshwater, and most of it goes to livestock cultivation. It takes more than 1,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef, and in 2007, the average consumption of meat per person was 102.5 pounds (according to a study done by NPR). This means that each person utilized around 188,600 gallons of water through meat consumption alone. For a population that is continually increasing, water preservation is more important than ever. Not only that, but the more strain put on water cycling means the more resources needed to produce and obtain usable water.

  One way to lesson the human impact on water reservoirs and the environment by agriculture is by consuming more vegetables/fruits/legumes than livestock. Compared to the 1,800 gallons of water needed to produce a pound of beef, it takes only around 160 gallons of water to produce one pound of maize (corn). Likewise, it takes almost 600 gallons to produce a pound of chicken, and only 36 gallons for one pound of lettuce. Even to produce the calorie equivalent of one pound of meat with vegetables, it still utilizes less water. For instance, the calorie equivalent of one pound of beef is around 18 pounds of lettuce, which requires around 648 gallons of water.

  In order for future generations to have access to clean and usable water, how the resource is being used currently needs reevaluating. By making smart choices on the types of food bought and eaten, the road to water preservation can become a much smoother one.