Water and Meat
This is an edited exert from my MA Thesis.
Clean water is a metabolic requirement for all living animals, including humans. Fresh water is a renewable resource, but not infinite, and with the global population set to increase, demand for fresh water will increase. Additionally, because of climate change, fresh water is perceived to become scarcer in many areas of the world, for instance, Africa is projected to suffer badly from reduced rainfall in the future. Estimates show that around 1 billion people in dry areas in the world are likely to face increased water scarcity. Irrespective of future speculation, even today 13% of all people do not have access to clean water.
Animal agriculture is responsible for between 20% and 33% of all fresh water consumed on earth. In real terms this means animal agriculture consumes between 34 and 76 trillion gallons of water annually. The amount of water needed to produce what we eat can be startling. For instance, 2,500 gallons of water are required to produce 1 pound of beef. This means that having a hamburger uses 660 gallons of water: the equivalent of showering for two and a half months. From their diets, meat-eaters not only have a considerably larger carbon footprint, but also a much larger water footprint. At an individual level, what we eat accounts for two-thirds of our total water footprint. This is because the amount of water used domestically is a tenth of the amount used in agriculture. Ceteris paribus, we would expect meat-eaters to use much more water than vegetarians. A meat-eaters diet uses 4,000 gallons of water a day. Whilst a vegetarian diet uses 1,200 gallons per day and a vegan diet uses only 300 gallons per day. This means a meat-eater uses an extra 2,800 gallons of water per day, compared with a vegetarian, all other things being equal.
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By Ian Harper