I love water. I’m a sea-kayaker and get out into it every chance I get. Candidly, when I’m out there I don’t think about water conservation. There just seems to be so much of it. An ocean of water, and it seems endless. But recently, because of a desire to be as ‘green’ and conservation-minded as possible these days, I have been thinking about another kind of water-fresh water. The kind that we drink and use in the course of our daily lives. So I’ve been doing some research into how much water we use and how much water is needed for us to enjoy the quality of life that we do here in America. The results are sobering.
Last week I wrote about how much fresh water we use (in our homes) just going through the motions of everyday life. The average family of four using 600 gallons of fresh water a week was a real surprise. There was some good news, however. We found that we could control a lot of our usage. Today’s blog is, sad to say, about much of what you and I cannot control. It’s about how much water is used in the production of the food we eat. I guess it’s more informative than anything, and is meant to be educational.
Let’s take an average meal at a restaurant as an illustration of just how much fresh water goes into putting that food on your plate. You go to your favorite restaurant and look over the menu. You decide to get a steak. It comes with a baked potato and corn-on-the-cob. With it you have a glass of wine, and finish-off with a cup of coffee. Pretty standard stuff. So, how much fresh water does it take to put that steak dinner on your plate? But before I tell you, I need to let you know that my intent isn’t to make you enjoy your meal any less, it’s to help you enjoy it more, to appreciate it more. We live in a country, despite all of the problems that are dished-up to us daily through the news, where we have the blessing of enjoying meals that take an enormous amount of water, just to get it to our plate. This will surprise you.
1. Your steak: In order to put-up one pound of beef, it requires 1,799 gallons (6,810 liters) of water! That’s 6.6 pounds (3 kilograms) of grain for feed, plus irrigation water; 36.2 pounds (16.4 kilograms) of roughage or grasses for feed, plus irrigation water; 18.6 gallons (70.5 liters) of additional water for drinking and processing. You read this right. That’s close to 1,800 gallons of water for every pound of beef we eat!
2. The baked potato: In order to get one pound of potatoes it takes 119 gallons (450 liters) of water. Think about this: Worldwide potato production soaks up about 0.2 trillion cubic feet (6.5 billion cubic meters) of water annually. Potato production accounts for 0.09 percent of global water use for the planet’s total agricultural crop production.
3. The Corn: One pound of corn (0.5 kilograms) requires 108 gallons (409 liters) of water. Worldwide corn production soaks up about 19.4 trillion cubic feet (550 billion cubic meters) of water annually. Corn production accounts for 8 percent of global water use for the planet’s total agricultural crop production. So much for corn-produced gasoline being inexpensive. Oil consumes only 1.01 gallons (1.06 cubic meters) of water per kilowatt hour to produce. Didn’t think about that, did we?
4. The Wine: Get this. For one gallon of wine (3.8 liters) it takes 1,008 gallons (3,816 liters) of water. That’s 63.4 gallons of water for one glass (1 cup)! Most of the water used for wine production is for growing the grapes. I happen to think it’s worth it.
5. The coffee: One gallon of coffee (3.8 liters) requires 880 gallons (3,331 liters) of water. That’s 37 gallons (140 liters) of water for just one cup. If everyone in the world drank a cup of coffee each morning, it would ‘cost’ about 32 trillion gallons (120 billion cubic meters) of water a year. If you’re like me, I consume 4 cups by noon. That’s 148 gallons of water just to wake me up.
O.K. So the steak is only 8 ounces, the potato is only 8 ounces, and the corn is only 4 ounces. So…by the time we have consumed that steak dinner, with the wine and coffee, it has required somewhere close to 1,200 gallons of water just to get it to our plate. Amazing.
Having done the research on this hasn’t caused me to feel bad. It’s actually caused me to be more appreciative of the fact that I live in a country that actually has the water resources that enables me to enjoy the quality of life that I do. Imagine living in a country where water isn’t available like it is here in America. In order to produce the food we eat, it takes lots and lots of water. We’re blessing to live in this country, regardless of the politics. There are some things that we just take for granted-like water. Kinda makes we want to invest in organizations that help third-world countries drill for water…