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Climate Change

Be in the H2know: How Much Water Do You Use?

by Mia Costello

How much water does it take to grow our food?

I

Introduction

II

Amount of Water Used for Protein

Protein production requires the most water to produce in our food system. From the watering of the crops they eat, to their drinking water, to the cleaning of their pens, animals require more water consumption then you may have thought even possible.

 

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Did you know that it takes about 460 gallons of water to grow one-quarter pound of beef?  That is a lot of water for a small hamburger. 

III

Amount of Water Used for Irrigation

In order to mark real improvements in regards to our water consumption and our food systems, we must actively change the way we produce food. The irrigation systems used on most agricultural lands allow the crops to absorb only about three-quarters of the water. Utilizing more efficient irrigation channels could have positive economic and environmental impacts on farms of all sizes. Moreover, applying the appropriate amount of water to crops prevents overwatering and significantly improves the crop yields while lowering production costs for farmers.  

Drip irrigation is the most efficient when it comes to water usage, as it targets the roots of plants to eliminate water waste. In some developing nations in both Africa and Asia, drip irrigation is used on just 6% of their farmland so there is an opportunity to further use efficient water application processes. 

V

Technology Solutions that are Improving Water Efficiency

Farm animals can now accessorize with smartwatches of their own. Farmers have begun to employ new livestock wearables that monitor the health of their cattle. With the monitoring technology, farmers can more efficiently utilize resources such as water and food depending on the cattle’s health needs. These new methods in conjunction with the proper irrigation systems and limiting of meat consumption can lessen water consumption and waste.

Similarly, soil sensors strategically located perform virtually the same tasks as the livestock wearables, allowing farmers to monitor the needs of the soil. Farmers can then decide how much water is needed to keep the crops growing and healthy and when to stop the flow of water when the plants have had enough. These two emerging technologies are effective in monitoring water usage and improving water efficiency.  

Imagine cows like these wearing their own Fitbit to track their health needs; Unsplash

Imagine cows like these wearing their own Fitbit to track their health needs; 

Unsplash

VI

Conclusion

In closing, the two main ways you can reduce your water intake is to limit your food waste as well as eat less meat. These individual actions are simple and with the implementation of collective solutions such as drip irrigation systems, we will make a difference.  We often don't realize that we must become responsible stewards of clean water so that our finite resource remains abundant for all.  We can ensure a future of freshwater for all. 

 

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