Read This, Not That: News Fails and Successes on the California Drought

Read this:

1. Watch/read the Democracy Now interview with creators of Cowspiracy. This is the best overall analysis of the role animal ag plays in California’s water shortage.

On fracking:

Fracking gets a lot of attention because of water use. Fracking uses about 100 billion gallons of water every year in the U.S., which is a tremendous amount of water, but animal agriculture uses in excess of 34 trillion gallons. So it’s magnitudes greater. And then again the emissions that come from animal agriculture are about equal to natural gas and petroleum production. So it’s an issue that is vastly more destructive when it comes to water consumption, water pollution, and even emissions.

On almonds:

Ten percent of all water in California is used for almonds, which is a tremendous amount of water. But again, just alfalfa alone, a crop that is not consumed by human beings, that is fed for livestock, consumes 15 percent. California produces 82 percent of the world’s entire almonds. This is — again 10 percent of California’s water is feeding the 82 percent of the world’s almond demands. And the other important fact is that Americans aren’t consuming, and Californians in particular, aren’t consuming nine ounces of almonds per day, which is not the case for animal agriculture. Animal products we’re consuming nine ounces per person per day in the United States.

Lots and lots of statistics. I encourage you to check out the whole thing!

2. LA times has a great infographic showing the amount of water used to produce different foods.

AND, what’s even cooler, they have an interactive graphic where you can create a virtual plate and see how much your water footprint is!

3. A Mother Jones article from last year shows the amount of water that goes into producing different dairy products.

4. A Cowspiracy blog post from February highlights a New Republic article called Big Cattle, Big Gulp: Cowboys and cows are sucking the American West dry.

  • Humans drink about a gallon of water a day; cows, upwards of 23 gallons.
  • The alfalfa, hay, and pasturage raised to feed livestock in California account for approximately 1/2 of the water used in the state, with alfalfa representing the highest-acreage crop.
  • In parts of Montana, as much as 90 percent of irrigated land is operated solely for the production of livestock feed
  • 90 percent of Nevada’s cropland is dedicated to raising hay.
  • 1/2 of Idaho’s three million acres of irrigated farmland grows forage and feed exclusively for cattle; livestock production represents 60 percent of the state’s water use.
  • In Utah, cows are the top agricultural product, and three-fifths of the state’s cropland is planted with hay.
  • Alfalfa and hay production in the West requires more than ten timesthe water used by the region’s cities and industries combined, according to some estimates.
  • Producing one kilogram of animal protein requires about 100 timesmore water than producing one kilogram of grain protein.

5. Truth or Drought has a change.org petition to Save Our Water to include animal agriculture. Another great summary of facts, including the following:

Making a meal with lentils instead of beef can save a family of four the equivalent of 17 bathtubs full of water, per Oxfam International.

Skipping one single hamburger saves 660 gallons of water (LA Times). (Comparatively, the popular tip of shaving a minute off your shower saves about 2 gallons of water.) This means that 6 hamburgers equal an entire year of showers! 

Not that.

Skip the New York Times article that only gives glancing attention to agriculture, and no mention of animal agriculture specifically:

But even a significant drop in residential water use will not move the consumption needle nearly as much as even a small reduction by farmers. Of all the surface water consumed in the state, roughly 80 percent is earmarked for the agricultural sector.

“The big question is agriculture, and there are difficult trade-offs that need to be made,” said Katrina Jessoe, assistant professor of agricultural and resource economics at the University of California, Davis.

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