Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Big Drink

In the past 50 years, the world's water use has tripled. More than a third of the western United States sits atop groundwater that is being consumed faster than it's replenished. Half of the world's wetlands are gone, killed off in part by irrigation and dams, which have destroyed habitats along 60 percent of the planet's largest river systems. Since 1970, the population of freshwater species has been halved; one-fifth of all freshwater fish vanished in the past century—an extinction rate nearly 50 times that of mammals. And consuming more water has concentrated pesticides and fertilizers in what's left over: It's unsafe to swim or fish in nearly 40 percent of US rivers and streams, and polluted water sickens nearly 3.5 million Americans a year
Mojo has a nice series of articles up on water and calculating our "water footprint." Here, to wet your appetite, is a graph showing how much water goes into a series of everyday items.
Microchip - 8 gallons

Apple - 18 gallons

Pint of beer - 20 gallons

4 oz. wine - 32 gallons

16 oz. Diet Coke - 33 gallons

4 oz. coffee - 37 gallons

7 oz. orange juice - 45 gallons

Diaper - 214 gallons

1 lb. chicken - 467 gallons

1 lb. cheese - 599 gallons

Hamburger - 634 gallons

Cotton T-shirt - 719 gallons

Ream of white paper - 1,321 gallons

1 lb. beef - 1,857 gallons

Pair of leather shoes - 2,113 gallons

Pair of jeans - 2,866 gallons

Midsize car - 39,090 gallons

As the former employee of a municipal water conservation program and a vegetarian, I sit in judgment of the rest of you. Consider this: "To produce 1 pound of feedlot beef requires about 2,400 gallons of water and 7 pounds of grain." If you couldn't do it for the sake of animal cuteness, do it for the pragmatic reason that it's killing the rest of us.

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