Clear Gold

August 1, 2009 at 8:14 pm 1 comment

Michigan is proposing build a pipeline to drain 322 million litres of water from Lake Huron. Ontario hasn’t agreed to it yet, because the proposal doesn’t contain assurance that the water “will stay in the Great Lakes basin and be used efficiently.” Since moving water from the Great Lakes sounds a lot like the plan for solving Lake Mead’s problems without addressing the issues of wasted water.

The people murmuring about Water Wars are starting to look less and less crazy as time goes on.

Sarnia solved the issue of water conservation. They raised water prices and imposed watering restrictions, and a miraculous thing happened. “The water is so bloody expensive, that’s why people are not using it,” according to Coun. Anne Marie Gillis. They cut their water down to 81,000 cubic metres/day from the 181,000 it’s licensed to sell. So, to celebrate, they are begging people to waste more water, because the loss of revenue is putting them in the red.

Water is more valuable a resource than coal, oil, or gold. Three days without it and you die. Period. And as we start to watch folks around the world try to deal with their water shortages, it’s probably a good idea to look at our relationship to it. The average American uses 4500 litres of water per day (and I can’t imagine the Canadian numbers are much different—but if you know your food consumption in kilograms, you can calculate your water footprint). It’s not so surprising when you realize that it takes 200 litres to make 1kg of plastic, or that it requires 2-4 barrels of water to extract a barrel of oil from the tar sands. And then, of course, there’s food.

Food requires a tremendous amount of water to produce commercially. Like 70 litres for 1 apple, 1300 litres/kg of wheat, 3400 litres/kg of rice, 15500 litres/ kg of beef [More stats >].  In my backyard garden, I can get away with not watering my vegetables because I drought-proof it. But when you have a sterile field fed with chemical fertilizers, you need a lot of irrigation (oh, and you have to remove nitrates from the groundwater afterward, but that’s another story).

So when you import grapes from Israel (75% of whose water footprint falls outside of their country) for example, it’s pretty much the same thing as importing fossil water, which can never be replaced. And the really sad thing?
Most of that irrigation water is just wasted, due to runoff (which poisons surrounding ecosystems, and groundwater supplies—remember Walkerton?) and evaporation. How efficient can something called “flood irrigation” be, do you think? Yeah.

But like many things, shit has to get really bad for it to get better. California’s water pressures (“We’re looking at a scenario where there’s no more agriculture in California”) have resulted in innovations in technology to ensure more efficient irrigation practices, and farmers are beginning to return to hardier heirloom fruit and drought-proof practices, encouraging their tomatoes, apple trees, almonds and oranges to grow deep, healthy roots and wait for the rain. As it turns out, drought-farmed fruit is a lot tastier and more disease resistant than the fruit coming from lazy, shallow-rooted plants. They’re finally making more of less water. But what can individuals do to consume less water so we’re not dying of thirst in the future?

Well, for starters, get to know your farmers. Half of the fun of going to the farmer’s market is learning about the farms that supply your meals. The smaller the farm, the more likely they are to act responsibly. If you’re lucky enough to be in a city where Mennonites frequent the farmer’s market, you can be certain that they’re not using wasteful irrigation systems.

Your choice of food can make a difference too. It takes a lot less water to make a grain-based meal than a rice-based one, and it takes much, much less water to make a meal without meat.

And I can’t tell you enough that you need to try growing some food of your own. A one block diet saves more water and fuel than anything else you put in your mouth. The earth, and your stomach, will thank you.


Entry filed under: consume less, Food, Uncategorized, Water. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Ontario Energy Audit Who doesn’t like free food?

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1.  |  November 15, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    I wish we would just keep the water here in the Great Lakes area. They will tell us it will save us money but they will get rich and thats just how it goes


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