Updated 17 March 2013

Save water: eat less meat

Diets high in meat and dairy products are draining the planet dry.

When it comes to saving water, we tend to think of fixing dripping taps and swopping baths for showers. But changing your diet to include fewer animal products can make a big difference too.

As world population grows, so does our need for fresh, potable water and food. Agriculture and food production is hugely thirsty, accounting for 70% of global freshwater withdrawals (up to 90% in some areas).

By 2030 (that’s just 17 years away), it’s predicted there will be a 50% increase in food demand. This isn’t just because there are more and more hungry mouths to feed on the planet every day, it’s also because people are eating less starch and more meat and dairy products - which take more water to produce.

For example: it takes 3 500 litres of water to produce 1kg of rice, but 15 000 litres to produce 1 kg of beef.

So mark this World Water Day, 22 March 2013, (it’s also SA Water Week and International Year of Water Co-operation, to add weightiness to the occasion) with a vegetarian meal and resolve to cut back on animal products in future. It’s good for you too.

More water-saving tips:
  • Reclaim the sponge bath. A shower beats a bath energy-wise and water-wise, but a sponge bath beats both, using only a fraction of the hot water. 
  • Leaky toilets waste water. A leaking toilet can waste up to 100 000 litres of water a year. Use this trick to find out if yours has a leak: put a few drops of food dye in the cistern.
  • Don't be a drip. A dripping tap can waste 30-60 litres per day or even more, and according to several bylaws it's illegal not to fix obvious leaks. 
  • Lawns: not very green. Rolling green lawns take lots of water to stay that way, and being a single plant species they don’t support rich biodiversity.
  • Let it mellow… You may have seen this immortal poem pasted above an environmentally aware toilet, or had it chanted at you by persons of school-going age. It's simply not necessary to flush every single time.
Stats cited on global water consumption are from UN Water / UNESCO.

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