The Environmental Impact: Water

“We are, quite literally, gambling with the future of our planet – for the sake of hamburgers” – Peter Singer


*660 gallons equals almost 2,500 liters of water

I have a vivid memory, from around the age of nine, of brushing my teeth with my Dad before school. I remember a feeling of anxiety coming over me when he left the water running between rinses. I’d been learning about climate change at school and I remember telling my Dad that he should turn the water on and off in accordance with his need for it because he was wasting water. He thanked me for the suggestion and proceeded to turn on the water only to rinse off his toothpaste.

You often hear the phrase ‘carbon footprint’ in the media, but as discussed in my last post there are many more greenhouse gas emissions, including methane and nitrox oxide, that need accounted for in our footprint on the earth. There’s another ‘environmental footprint’ that gets less air time – water. When you consider your water footprint, what comes to mind? Your showers? The fresh drinking water you consume? The water you use to wash your clothes? The water you use to brush your teeth? Water footprint is central to the Cowspiracy documentary. There is a lot of research indicating cows have the most inefficient conversion of resources to meat. Not only more land and grain is needed but significantly more water than any other farmed animal (water to produce their food and as well as the water they consume). The facts stated below are taken directly from the Cowspiracy webpage, with their sources referenced and hyperlinked (see resources):

  • Agriculture is responsible for 80-90% of US water consumption
  • Growing feed crops for livestock consumes 56% of water in the US
  • 477 gallons (1,805 L) of water are required to produce 1lb. of eggs
  • Almost 900 gallons (3,406 L) of water are needed for 1lb. of cheese
  • 1,000 gallons (3,785 L) of water are required to produce 1 gallon of milk
  • Worldwide, cows drink 45 billion gallons of water and eat 135 billion pounds of food each day (figures to large to convert to metric)
  • 5% of water consumed in the US is by private homes, whilst 55% of water consumed in the US is for animal agriculture
  • Animal Agriculture is responsible for 20%-33% of all fresh water consumption in the world today.

The water footprint is one of the leading arguments for veganism, at least from an environmental perspective. It’s very clear that meat and dairy industries need to use a lot of water and consuming these products supports these unsustainable practices. But why is this a concern? It’s concerning because fresh water is a finite resource and it is essential to our existence on this planet. In many parts of the world already, water shortages are becoming critical, which is a global justice concern (more on this later).

So, today on a vegan diet I saved around 4,163 litres of water. As a side note, I also had an amazing burger for lunch. You really can have your burger and eat it too! I still can’t bring myself of leave the water running while I brush my teeth though.

Thank for reading,

Meg x

References and Resources

To watch Cowspiracy free on YouTube:

Facts cited from Conspiracy (includes hyperlinks to original research reports):

To read more about this and more read: The Ethics of What We Eat – Peter Singer and Jim Mason


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