Solving The California Water Crisis

May 1, 2014

Politicians are scratching their heads, trying to create solutions – while also being careful not to damage corporate profits. The average citizens are outraged, not acknowledging that what they choose to eat, and how they decide to heat their homes plays a huge role in the water shortage. Corporations are raking in profits at the expense of our access to clean water. Rainfall is almost unheard of, and while the trees create rainfall, logging companies are still cutting down thousands of them daily. The rivers and water reservoirs are drying up, and water tables are at record lows, yet trillions of gallons are being used annually for the dangerous ecocidal process known as fracking, as well as for animal agriculture. The state of California is in a crisis, and if we want to save our beautiful state from becoming a desert, we must adapt changes.

 

To make a difference, it is mandatory that we understand why we are experiencing this water shortage, how we can use the water more efficiently, and what is diverting the rainfall away from our region. If we exercise accurate research, we will discover that there are three major contributors responsible for this drought and water shortage. By permanently banning factory farms, fracking, and logging, the trillions of gallons of water that we are using to raise animals for food, and extract natural gases from underground, can be used to grow more organic fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds; restore the rivers and water reservoirs; and raise the water tables. Knowing that trees create rain, if we save the remaining trees, plant new saplings everywhere, and restore the forest ecosystems, the natural weather patterns can revert back to normal. If we are serious about saving our state from this drought, then we have to see through the lies and propaganda that mislead us into believing that we cannot control the situation. We have to reexamine who we are placing our trust in. If a job requires for someone to protect the people, and they continue to protect corporations instead, then we can no longer trust that person to execute their duties in office.

 

Animal agriculture is wasting trillions of gallons water. Dr. T. Colin Campbell provides evidence in his book, “The China Study,” that there is absolutely no nutrient that we cannot obtain from eating a plant-based, vegan diet. We know today that eating animals is damaging to our health. A 2014 study indicates that eating animal protein can be just as harmful as smoking cigarettes. To continue wasting valuable resources for the unsustainable practice of factory farming, is not only unreasonable,but also a declaration of ignorance. By converting the land used to raise animals into non-GMO, organic fruit and vegetable farms, we will not only increase food production, but also use our resources more efficiently. Raising animals for food uses more water than any other method of agriculture.

 

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Census of Agriculture, there are 1.7 million dairy cows, 563,000 beef cattle, 131,000 hogs, 49.6 million broiler chickens, and 19.7 million egg-laying hens on factory farms in California. The amount of water being used to raise these animals is seriously draining our water reservoirs and aquifers. Drawing from the National Geographic water footprint calculator, for every gallon of milk produced, the process requires up to 880 gallons of water.The Midwest Dairy Association reports that the average dairy cow produces up to seven gallons of milk daily. This informs us that each dairy cow is using 6,160 gallons of water each day to produce seven gallons of milk. Not only is cow's milk linked to multiple degenerative diseases and chronic conditions in humans, but clean water is much healthier. We are essentially throwing away 6,153 gallons of water for every seven gallons of milk we consume. With 1.7 million dairy cows on factory farms in the state, at 6,160 gallons per cow, per day, we are consuming 10,472,000,000 gallons of water per day simply for milk production. This comes out to an annual water usage of 3,822,280,000,000 gallons in the state of California simply so that we can drink the milk of another species that is not even designed for us to consume. That is close to four trillion gallons of water each year being wasted to manufacture a product that is –according to nutritionfacts.org -- known to promote breast cancer,prostate cancer, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and obesity.

 

The Water Education Foundation indicates that for every pound of beef produced, it requires 2,464 gallons of water. This is also a generous number.Several other reports claim that more water is used per pound. It is also supported that for every pound of pork produced, 1,630 gallons of water are needed, and for every pound of chicken, up to 815 gallons are used. The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture declares that the average 1,000 pound steer will produce around 440 pounds of retail beef cuts, and that the average 250 pound hog will produce around 144 pounds of retail pork cuts. The target weight for a boiler chicken is six pounds. Using these numbers as a base, we can now determine how much water is being used annually for the production of beef, chicken, and pork provided by factory farms in the state of California. The 563,000 beef cattle alone will produce up to 247,720,000 pounds of beef. Using 2,464 gallons of water to produce each pound, we realize that 610,382,080,000 are being used annually in California to produce factory-farmed beef. That is over 610 billion gallons of water. According to David Pimentel, Ph.D., Professor of Ecology and Agricultural Science, Cornell University, we could go two years without a shower and still not save as much water as we do by not eating one pound of beef. From the 131,000 hogs in factory farms,18,864,000 pounds of pork will be produced. At 1,630 gallons of water per pound, this will require 30,748,320,000 gallons. This is over 30 billion gallons of water. Finally, from the 49.6 million boiler chickens in factory farms, at six pounds per chicken, we are looking at 297,600,000 pounds of chicken meat produced. With each pound requiring up to 815 gallons of water, the total annual water usage comes to 242,544,000,000 gallons.

 

Judging by the amount of water that is being wasted to produce milk, beef, pork, and chicken for human consumption, it is safe to admit that we are mistaken in our common widespread philosophy regarding food sustainability. There is absolutely nothing sustainable about eating meat or drinking milk,and there is most definitely a dire need to end the dangerous practice of factory farming. Each year, in California alone, factory farms are using 4,705,954,400,000 gallons of water to produce milk and meat products. This is close to five trillion gallons of water.To understand this better, think about how much water it takes to produce one pound of apples, carrots, kale, potatoes, quinoa, and tomatoes. To produce one pound of each of these crops, and a total of six pounds of food, it would require a total of less than 200 gallons of water. You would also provide your body with more nourishment by eating this variety of foods than you would from consuming animal products. Can you imagine how plentiful our most precious resource –being water – would be if we simply refrained from allowing factory farms to operate? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)estimates that each household uses about 300 gallons of water per day. According to the U.S Census Bureau, there was a population total of 38,322,521 in California in 2013. This means for the entire population of California, we would need 11,499,756,300 gallons of water a day to sustain life, and 4,197,411,049,500 gallons annually.This is almost equivalent to the amount of water being used for producing milk and meat in the state alone. By placing a permanent ban on factory farming, sure, corporations may lose profits, however,we will create a surplus of water, create job opportunities on fruit and vegetable farms, and drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions– animal agriculture is responsible for fifty-one percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to factory farming being responsible for the water shortage in California, hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is also wasting our water.

 

The process of hydraulic fracturing – known as fracking – uses trillions of gallons of water annually. Yes, I agree propane can be used to heat our homes.However, there are much cleaner, safer, and ecologically-friendly means of heating our homes. Many people talk about the economic boom attached to fracking. Sure, a select few already wealthy individuals are going to see an economic boom, but I assure you that you will not see a penny of it. What many people do not understand is that fracking requires enormous amounts of water. That water is contaminated with a fracking chemical cocktail that consists of hundreds of chemicals. Most of these chemicals are hazardous and have been linked to respiratory diseases. The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), accounting for eighty percent of the oil and natural gas drilled in California, announced that their companies fracked 628 oil wells in 2011 – about a quarter of all oil and gas wells drilled across the state that year. A 2009 report by the Groundwater Protection Council, "Modern Shale Gas Development in the United States: A Primer," stated that, “The amount of water needed to drill and fracture a horizontal shale gas well generally ranges from about 2 million to 4 million gallons,depending on the basin and formation characteristics.” With roughly 2,500 wells being fracked annually in the state, and each well requiring two to four million gallons of water, the total water usage for fracking is around five to ten billion gallons. We are essentially trading our access to clean water for dirty fossil fuels while being conditioned to believe that these fossil fuels are 'clean.' If we permanently ban fracking in California, we will help provide a surplus of water to the state. We will also save thousands of plant and animal species from being poisoned by the dangerous fracking chemical cocktails.

 

In addition to our water shortage problems associated with using excessive amounts of water for the unnecessary extraction of 'natural' gas, and the practice of raising animals in factory farms for food, we are also experiencing drought due to a lack of rainfall. The logging industry is driving rainfall away from the region by cutting down the trees that moderate rainfall. Trees help to moderate rainfall by absorbing water from the soil, and later releasing it from the leaves to be absorbed back into the atmosphere. This water that is released from the trees forms into clouds, and when the clouds accumulate enough water, this results in rainfall. Since 1850, over two million acres of old-growth redwood trees have been cut down by loggers along coastal California. Today,we have lost over ninety-seven percent of our North American rainforests. The beautiful lions, grizzly bears, Northern spotted owls, and several other species of animals are extinct or endangered.For the last two decades, the United States has been losing more than a million acres of timberland a year to the logging industry. This means our forests are being decimated at nearly two acres a minute.The Forest Service projects that more than fifty-seven million acres of private forests — an area bigger than all of New England —will be decimated in the next two decades. By permanently banning logging in California, we are saying, “Enough is enough.”It is time for us to end this drought, and the best way to do this is by banning the destructive practice of cutting down trees. Only two percent of the redwood forests remain, and thousands are still being logged daily. If we are serious abut solving the water crisis, we have to be real about the situation. If we want rain, we need forests to moderate the rainfall. We cannot sugarcoat things. There is no such thing as sustainable forestry. All logging is disastrous to the environment.

 

Rather than spending extra hours searching for excuses as to why we are facing this crisis, we need to address the issues that are most important. To end the water shortage, we do not need to stop growing avocados. We do not even have to stop showering. We can still go about our daily lives. We simply need to remove animal products from our diet,refrain from using propane, and demand that the California State Government place permanent bans on factory farming, fracking, and logging. By banning these destructive methods of production, we will create a surplus of water, and also eliminate future water problems.Corporations are definitely going to be upset, and some people may temporary be unemployed, however, we have to remind ourselves that if we do not act soon, there will be no clean water, and without water,our job status will not matter.

 

 

Jesse J. Jacoby © 2014

 

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