Sustainability - Water Conservation - Environmental & Animal Welfare Impact

From drinking purposes to everyday activities, water is a basic need for humans, plants and even microbes. Production of resources like livestock and crops that are primary sources of nutrients for human beings also requires water. The uses of water are many, but we do not have enough water! 

With an increasing human population and growing economies, demand for freshwater is on a constant rise. Many parts of the world are already facing an acute shortage of drinking water. These rising needs placed on the global water supply pose a risk on terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity as well as supply of water for food production and other human needs. 

Wondering why the shortage even though 71% of earth’s surface is covered with water? Well, we only have 3% freshwater, out of which 2.6% is locked in glaciers and ice. That leaves us with less than a percent of drinking water. 

In this blog, we will discuss why water conservation is the need of the hour. To do so, we will dive deep into statistics around water consumption and contamination across the world, especially the United States. 

Animal Agriculture

Agriculture is one of the major users of surface and groundwater in the United States. It consumes approximately 70% of freshwater worldwide and 80-90% of water in the US. During 2005, approximately 410,000 million gallons of water was withdrawn for use in the United States per day. About 80 percent of the total water was taken out from the surface, most of it was freshwater. 

The annual usage of water for animal agriculture ranges from 34 to 76 trillion gallons. Feed crops grown for livestock consumes 56% of water in the United States. Talking about the world, animal agriculture is responsible for 20-33% of fresh water consumption worldwide.

In western states of California, Kansas, Alaska, Colorado, Texas, a large amount of electricity is used to pump surface and ground water for producing animal feed. Usage of ground and surface water for animal feed is resulting in depletion of aquifers like the High Plains Ogallala where farming consumes 94% of the water, majorly animal farming. Not only this, the depletion of groundwater tables in the West without any recharge may result in drying up of wells. 

Each person in California uses about 140 gallons of water every day for drinking, washing clothes, watering gardens and other household chores. More water is used for production of goods we consume and that includes everything from the food we eat to clothes we wear and. This is known as the ‘virtual water’.

The water used for crops like alfalfa, hay corn, forage and pasture sidelines other essential uses and has disastrous effects on fish stocks in California. It accounts for nearly 34% of all the irrigated water pumped in the western state. 

Foods like beans and tofu utilise a lot less water than meat, especially chicken. The California Water Education study reveals that one pound of tofu needs 219 gallons of water. On the other hand, eggs use 477 gallons, beef takes 2463 gallons and cheese needs around 896 gallons. Another study found out that one pound of beef uses 1857 gallons and one pound of chicken takes 469 gallons. The amount of water used in processing is excluded in these figures.

What Is The Solution?

Sustainability means meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of the future generations. With depleting resources and increasing global warming, adopting sustainable ways of living has become indispensable for survival today. Water conservation is one of the major aspects of sustainable living. It refers to the strategies, policies, and activities involved to sustainably manage fresh water and protect the hydrosphere.

Adopting the right practices for water conservation can help us overcome the problem of water scarcity. Agricultural conservation programs supporting environmental policy goals and conservation of water may help. Here are a few smart practices that can help in conserving water.

  • Using water management techniques 
  • Efficient irrigation systems such as drip water irrigation
  • Enhanced on-farm water management 
  • Dry-year water banks
  • Option water markets
  • Regulated irrigation withdrawals

Note: The effectiveness of these practices is subject to local conditions such as the size, location and type of irrigated farms.

The Final Words

Private homes in the US consume 5% water. A single person wastes about 0-45L of water each day. The reasons for wastage are mostly poor flushing systems, RO water purification, running water or human negligence. 

To cut this water wastage on our ends, we can take small steps like:

  • Eating more Vegan and Plant-Based food options
  • Fixing leaky plumbing in the house
  • Preserving rainwater by rain water harvesting
  • Turning the tap off when not in use
  • Using dishwasher instead of hand washing
  • Reusing it to water the plants
  • Opting for drip irrigation method
  • Cutting short your long showers 
  • Using devices like low-flow showers and ultra-low flush 
  • Avoiding to make swimming pools
  • Using clothes washer only in case of full load
  • Making sure to insulate your water pipes

We have not inherited natural resources like water from our ancestors. Instead, we have borrowed them from the future generations. So, it is our responsibility to prevent water contamination and preserve it. Together, we can make a difference!

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