Animal Aid

How big is your water footprint?

Posted 24 April 2008

At the World Economic Forum in January, the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, warned that water and food shortages would be the crises of 2008. There is already a global water shortage, and droughts caused by climate change, combined with an ever-increasing population, will only make this precious resource scarcer. By going vegan, each of us can take a simple step to greatly reducing our impact on the planet and its resources.

Water footprint (as carbon footprint) is a phrase used to describe the real volume of water used to create a product. The meat and dairy industries have two of the largest water footprints in food production. Animal farming is incredibly wasteful in its use of water (as well as land and energy) and uses much more water than plant-based agriculture. Even the most water-intensive plant-based crop uses far less water then the most water efficient form of animal agriculture. It takes between 2,000 and 4,000 litres for a cow to produce one single litre of milk and a staggering 100,000 litres to produce one kilogram of beef, compared to 1,000 litres for a kilo of wheat. Overall, animal farming uses much more land, energy and water than plant-based agriculture because we are growing crops (half of the global food harvest) to feed to farmed animals. If crops were simply fed directly to people, less would be needed and the use of precious resources dramatically reduced. Western diets, which depend largely on meat and dairy, are putting great pressures on the Earth’s water resources. A typical meat eating, milk drinking westerner consumes as much as a hundred times their own weight in water every day. Switching to an animal-free diet is the simplest way to reduce our impact on the planet and conserve water. You will also be helping to save thousands of animals and boosting your health at the same time.

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