Eating less meat could protect the driest areas of the world, saving much needed water. Reducing the use of animal products is very significant in all parts of the world, as meat production requires more water than other agricultural products, they say.
In case you don’t know, every food we eat (and every product we use) has an embedded water footprint – that is, the total quantity of water used to obtain that product. TreeHugger wrote an article explaining how much water is embedded in various food products. For example, vegetables such as lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers have less than 30 gallons per kilo, while fruits like oranges, apples or bananas usually have under 100 gallons. But when it comes to meat, you have an entirely different story. Chicken has over 800 gallons, while pork has 1600, and beef has over 2500 ! Some estimates put that figure at 5000 gallons – a huge figure. So it’s quite easy to understand why reducing meat consumption could save water:
“Diet change together with other actions, such as reduction of food losses and waste, may tackle the future challenges of food security,” states researcher Mika Jalava from Aalto University.
Growing populations and climate change exert huge pressures on water reserves all around the world, though in some parts more than in others. The study published in Environmental Research Letters is the first global-scale analysis with a focus on changes in national diets and their impact on the blue and green water use of food consumption. With the estimated population in 2050 of 9 billion, we’ll also need to find a way to feed and quench the thirst of the 2 extra billion mouths.
So, a good solution would be reducing meat consumption; by reducing the animal product contribution in the diet, global green water (rainwater) consumption decreases up to 21 % while for blue water (irrigation water) the reductions would be up to 14 %. In other words, by shifting to vegetarian diet we could secure adequate food supply for an additional 1.8 billion people without increasing the use of water resources.
The researchers at Aalto University found substantial differences in how this change in diet would affect societies around the world. For example, in Latin America, Europe, Central and Eastern Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa, diet change reduces mainly green water use. In Finland, for example, turning into a meat free diet would decrease the daily green water use of a Finn over 530 litres but at the same time resulting nearly 50 litres increase in blue water use. Meanwhile, in the Middle East region, North America, Australia and Oceania, also blue water use would decrease considerably. In South and Southeast Asia, on the other hand, diet change does not result in savings in water use, as in these regions the diet is already largely based on a minimal amount of products.
Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by Aalto University.
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