First carbon now water, what’s next? Well, in a rare opportunity to read an article in Discover magazine I was introduced to the idea of a water footprint. I’ve been taking strides towards water conservation for a while now. Ok, to be really honest I’ve been taking strides toward cash flow conservation for a while now and when the water is running the pump is also (we have a well) and I swear I can hear the electric meter happily spinning away. Regardless, however it happens, as long as it happens it’s a good thing. I take shorter showers than I used to. I turn off the water when I brush my teeth and instruct my children to do so as well. I only run the dishwasher when it’s absolutely full, (which, consequently, in my house is almost every evening). I’ve even gone to making exactly as much coffee as I’ll drink in a morning, (with my lovely little Bodum french press). But apparently there is more to it than that. Great. There is this thing called “virtual water”, (if things are virtual are they things at all? -wait, must stay on topic, getting distracted…). For example, did you know one little apple actually has a water footprint of about 18.5 gallons? About 10.5 gallons of water goes into producing one slice of wheat bread. And a whopping 4,100 gallons of water has gone into the production of a little over 2 pounds of beef. How does this work? Well, the apple tree and the wheat need water to grow. Same story with the cows but water used to grow the cow’s feed and water used in farm maintenance also goes into this equation.
Now my husband, ever searching for opportunities for sarcasm, asks what the water footprint of a salmon would be since they need the whole ocean. How dare he challenge the doctrine of the Green?! He’s got a point though. Sometimes this water is produced in nature. I’m sure there isn’t going to be a lot of irrigation going on in orchards that receive plenty of rain. I know a lot of farmers and they’re not going to spend money on anything that will fall out of the sky for free. Would you? However, I suppose we should ask ourselves what the heck we are doing raising cows for beef if we live in a place that is parched for water. Maybe the lesson is really to grow things that don’t require as much human intervention to thrive in your area. It’s not the best idea to grow cherries in Arizona or prickly pear fruit in Alaska. I wanted to make my own Tequila but my agave garden just isn’t happy with 7 months of snow…
What if you don’t grow any food? Well, generally eating less meat lowers your water footprint a great deal. Animals take much more water to thrive then plants do and end up with much less of a net food yield. There are certain animals, however, that do need less water, -chicken, lamb and goat for example. Don’t tell my goats.
It’s something to think about. Check out the site below and see what your footprint is. There is an option for a rather generic estimate and an option for a quite detailed one. That is if you have the time and inclination. I have the inclination -not the time. Alas.