I am so glad you included the Joe Shreve piece on dry conditions in Santa Cruz County (Dry conditions worry local water, fire agencies, January 24, page 2). However, I was more than a bit disappointed at what was not said in the article.
It is certainly the case that we would all do well to be wiser about our water use habits. But far more good could be done by attending to the less visible but real water we consume. Even a cursory look at a few of the numbers makes it clear.
An average family of four uses anywhere between 70,000 and 175,000 gallons per year in and around the home. More than 50 percent (the most reliable figure I found was 57 percent) is devoted to landscaping uses. If every family member takes shorter showers, reduces lawn sprinkling, shuts the spigots when toothbrushing, etc., and is able to achieve the 20 percent reduction Governor Brown has asked of us all, that family will have reduced overall water usage by anywhere from 14,000 to 35,000 gallons.
That same average family of four consumes 200 pounds of beef per year or 3.85 pounds of beef per week. Every pound of beef requires 2,500 gallons of water to produce. If every family committed to a meatless day per week — a little more than one half pound of beef — over the course of the year they would save 65,000 gallons of water. And that's just beef!
Every year, the average American consumes 200 pounds of meat in all forms. Add to that dairy products: One gallon of milk requires 2,000 gallons of water. You can quickly see where this goes and what we need to do! If we want to make a meaningful dent in this water emergency, we need to change our diets. Eat fewer animal products and more plant-based foods. Water is conserved at the fork far more effectively than at the spigot. Yes, I admit it, I have been a vegetarian/vegan for nearly 45 years, and I can offer all sorts of ethical arguments for reducing our meat consumption. But this is not about that; this is about preserving what is surely one of our most precious resources.
Understand, I am not suggesting that adjusting our visible water use habits is a bad idea. Waste is never wise. But if our governor and leaders were more serious about this emergency and more willing to take on the meat and dairy industries, their message would be very different: Change what you are eating. Even if they won't, we can! I refer readers to my blog www.slowseat.com.
David Bryan, Boulder Creek