Saving water with our forks and knives: Tony Cárdenas
Californians are facing a record drought. According to a study by UC San Diego, over the last 18 months, nearly 62 trillion gallons of water have been depleted from our state. This loss of water has been so extreme that statewide restrictions have now been issued to drastically reduce our water usage.
While steps are being taken through government efforts, we all need to be a part of the solution.
We can’t create the rain, but we can take actions in our everyday lives to create a meaningful impact on reducing water usage.
Local water agencies are encouraging residents and businesses to consider digging up their lawns and replacing them with drought tolerant plants and hardscape. While in the suburbs, watering our lawns is restricted to alternate days, water rationing is now a way of life for our farmers. California produces much of the nation’s supply of fruits, nuts and vegetables, but the drought has forced many farmers to leave fields fallow or pump water from deeper and deeper wells.
With the state producing nearly half of the fruits and vegetables grown in the United States, attention has been placed on the amount of water it takes to grow certain foods. According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, it takes approximately 500 gallons of water to produce one pound of chicken and 4,000 to 18,000 gallons to produce a pound of beef. These numbers are staggering, especially when compared to the water resources required for vegetables, fruits and grain — just 26 gallons for a pound of tomatoes or 220 gallons for a loaf of wheat bread, according to the Water Footprint Network.
While we all must reduce our water usage at home to help the state survive the drought, we can also make small, but important lifestyle changes that will help. I am talking about making a conscious decision to compare the large amount of water it takes to produce that steak or pork chop you’re eating, with the likely smaller amount of water needed to produce delicious meatless options.
In that spirit my staff and I have taken on the Meatless Monday Challenge. Taking off one day a week from eating meat is a small way to cut down our water use and consumption while reducing our water footprint.
Going meatless one day a week is also good for the environment and our need to combat global warming. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations recognizes that animal agriculture is “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.” While there are many responsible actors in the meat industry, the greenhouse gas emissions produced by animal agriculture are a reality that we should not ignore, especially in light of the growth of factory farms.
With the drought and global warming creating such high stakes in our state, all Californians must do their part to examine their personal water usage and cut wherever possible. When I was first elected into public office, I vowed to tackle difficult problems with practical and realistic solutions. It’s never been easier to start tackling this crisis in your own home. From turning off the tap while brushing your teeth to taking a day off from meat, your actions will add up.
I hope you join me in taking the small but measurable voluntary steps to cutting our water use. We all have the tools to make a difference. Sometimes, they are disguised as forks and knives. Let’s put them to good use.
Rep. Tony Cárdenas, D-Arleta, represents California’s 29th Congressional District.