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Celebrate World Water Day: Reduce Water Use

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Irrigating_fields_SW_of_Killerton_Estate_resizedGuest post by Danielle Nierenberg, co-founder of Food Tank: The Food Think Tank

The United States is one of the world’s biggest users of water: many Americans use as much water as about 900 Kenyans. Water resources in the U.S. are shrinking. In the last five years, water shortages have occurred in almost every part of the country, including the worst drought in at least 25 years that hit 80 percent of the country’s farmland in 2012. Even worse, the damaged land won’t fully recover this year and at least 36 states are expecting local, regional, or statewide water shortages, even without the impact of drought.

The Natural Resources Defense Council expects water scarcity to affect the American South, West, and Midwest the most. Fourteen states in these regions already have “extreme” or “high” risk of water scarcity. Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Nevada, and Texas face the most danger because they are expected to see some of the largest population increases by 2030.

Water scarcity is about more than lack of water, it’s about lack of drinkable water. It is estimated that as many as 53.6 million Americans have contaminated tap water.

But as eaters and consumers, we can profoundly reduce water waste and water consumption through the food choices we make. Recent research from the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition (BCFN) shows that a healthful and environmentally sustainable diet can go hand in hand.

And access to clean water is a huge global problem; BCFN reports that one billion people do not have access to sufficient water resources.

Here are five steps to save water in the United States:

  • Eat less meat. Switching from a meat-centered weekly menu to a diet rich in vegetables and grains could save 2,500 liters of water a day! And eating grass-fed and locally-raised meat, eggs, and dairy products can also save water.
  • Steam vegetables instead of boiling them. In general, steaming veggies uses less water than boiling, and it’s more nutritious. For example, boiling corn on the cob in a large pot may use 6-8 quarts of water, whereas steaming only uses 1-2 quarts. If you must boil, save the water for your garden, soup stock, or use it to clean pots.
  • Support small-scale, family farms. Agricultural subsidies in the United States disproportionately support large-scale agribusinesses over the small-scale producers who are more likely to be engaged in sustainable food production, and may be challenged by drought or commodity price fluctuations. Changes in government support services could reduce this deficit and improve food and water security.
  • Streamline water use in home gardens. During summer months the. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that nearly 40 percent of household water is used for watering lawns and gardens. National Geographic Magazine suggests incorporating native plants into your garden that are adapted to the local climate and often require less water. Manually watering plants, instead of using automatic sprinklers, cuts water use by 33 percent, according to a report by the EPA. Consumers can also buy self-watering planters, or construct rain barrels that can save up to 1,300 gallons of water.
  • Reduce food waste. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says nearly one third of all food produced for human consumption is wasted through the production, storage, transportation, consumption and disposal cycles. Learn about your food’s shelf life and how long it is storable. Other ways to reduce food waste are to buy only what you plan to eat, using leftovers to create new meals or donating food you can’t use to soup kitchens.

It’s more important than ever that this World Water Day Americans find ways to save every drop.

Danielle Nierenberg is a food and agriculture expert and co-founder of Food Tank: The Food Think Tank.

Image: Irrigating fields SW of Killerton Estate from the Food Tank website.

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Written by William DiBenedetto

22 March, 2013 at 3:00 am

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  1. […] Guest post by Danielle Nierenberg, co-founder of Food Tank: The Food Think Tank The United States is one of the world’s biggest users of water: many Americans use as much water as about 900 Kenyans. Water resources in the U.S. are shrinking. In the last five years, water shortages have occurred in almost every part […] wrdforwrd Read Original Post […]


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