What does vegetables, meat, clothing and swimming pools have in common?
Water. The water that feeds plants--whether you eat them, look at them or weave them into cloth-- and hydrates animals has to come from somewhere...and has to GO somewhere.
When the terms "sustainable food" and "eating local" are tossed around, normally people talk about the miles it took for their food to get to their plate. Rarely is the amount of water used to grow or raise that food discussed or what happens to the water that runs off the agricultural or pasture fields. And rarely do people think about their water usage in terms of necessity versus luxury activities.
As much as possible, we tried to use our rain barrel to water the garden but even that would run dry with the drought we've been having. We mulch everywhere we have plants (even in containers) to help the soil retain moisture. If we use fertilizers, even organic ones, we only apply the recommended dosage and no more (usually a little more diluted than that) to limit run off which pollutes our rivers and streams.
We are all incredibly lucky to live in a place where you can just turn on a spigot & get clean water on demand. I know I could be more efficient with my water usage. Just because it's there, doesn't mean you have to use it.
Do you know your water footprint? You can find out at Waterfootprint.org.
Here are some water-footprints of common foods:
It takes 140 liters of water to produce 1 cup of coffee.
It takes 16,000 liters of water to produce 1 kg of beef.
It takes 1,350 liters of water to produce 1 kg of wheat.
It takes 1,000 liters of water to produce 1 liter of milk.
It takes 3,000 liters of water to produce 1 kg of rice.