California’s drought is an incredibly nuanced problem that has spanned over decades. Ending wasted water starts with the individual and while it may be more abstract than taking shorter showers, the foods we choose to eat impact our water supply tremendously.
Jerry Brown, the governor of California, has made recent demands from cities and towns to cut their water usage by 25 percent. While agriculture utilizes about 80 percent of our states water, no mandatory orders of water conservation from farmers were made at the time of his recent demands. Brown elected to exempt the agricultural sector from the new rules and instead focused his scrutiny on large landscapes such as golf courses and cemeteries.
Setting animal-friendly perspectives aside, it is undeniable that enormous amounts of water are used in livestock production. Millions of gallons of fresh water are used to hydrate the animals, irrigate their feed, and vast amounts of water are used in the butchering process that is kept maintained by using water to clean the blood and grease from equipment.
In order to change the supply of our state’s water, there needs to be a change in crop selection. However, trying to determine what gets grown would be a ceaseless argument among politicians, farmers and other individuals involved in this water crisis. For example, it takes one gallon of water to produce one almond. While the economics of almond production are profitable, the benefits don’t outweigh its devastation to our current water crisis.
A 2012 study published in the journal Ecosystems found that beef takes four million gallons per ton produced, whereas vegetables only use 85,000 tons of water.
A surplus of resources are needed for livestock sustainability and quality. Water, energy and grains are becoming exhausted as the demand for their returns are needed. Alfalfa, primarily used as cattle feed, is one of California’s biggest water hogs, using 15 percent of our state’s water, as pointed out by the Los Angeles Times.
Livestock guzzles water, and according to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), agriculture is responsible for nearly 18 percent of greenhouse emissions worldwide. While I don’t think the government should have any say in what people should be eating, it is hard to see this issue expand without any governmental intervention.
In Orange County there is hardly any cognizance surrounding the drought. People water their grassy lawns daily, exotic plant landscapes are kept maintained, and San Clemente just opened newly irrigated trails on the last piece of undeveloped land on Pacific Coast Highway in South Orange County.
These oblivious mindsets are due to politicians’ misplaced priorities and the lack of regulation in the urban and agricultural sector. Their misguided policies favor money, corporations, and livestock more than respecting our environment.