In January, Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency for California, which has seen many a dry day for three years running. He asked residents to cut water consumption by 20 percent.
Six months after the government mandate, a survey was released that showed the Golden State had actually used 1 percent MORE water in the month of May, than the previous three-year average for the same month. So much for heeding the governor's bidding. And thus California remains stuck in a historic shortage.
How bad is it? Reservoirs are dwindling and the Sierra Nevada is melting. Time magazine reports that the drought will cost the state more than $2 billion this year. What else do officials have up their sleeve to awaken in Californians the pressing urge to act? Curbs on lawn watering and other outdoor uses carry fines of up to $500 per day. Of course the fines' real value is less enforcement than awareness. And officials recognize that what is required is for people to have a change of heart, or else the next drought will devastate California.
It is time to recognize one huge and largely ignored source of water consumption. Namely the production of animal protein for food. Factory farming swallows a tremendous amount of water. John Robbins notes in several exceptional books that cutting back on meat consumption would save much more water than any other measure, given that the water required to produce just ten pounds of steak equals the water consumption of the average household for a year. Not only that, about 70% of the water used in the 11 western states is dedicated to the raising of animals for food. This is not taking into account the pollution that occurs from manure run-off, which renders clean water undrinkable and further reduces the amount to go around.
And just where do factory farms exist? Below is a map of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in America. The redder the areas the greater the concentration of animals, meaning the higher the water expenditure. Note that California has huge blocks of red areas.
Do your part and beat the meat. Tell a friend.