This World Water Day I didn’t shave an extra minute or two off my shower, or forgo watering my potted plants. Instead, I shopped at the farmers’s market and mapped out the dinner menu for the upcoming week. As 7 out of every 10 gallons of water is used to grow and produce food the most powerful way to be water conservationist is to support farmers and food producers who are.
What is a water conservationist? I used to think that water conservation simply meant to use less water. I built a small business around this belief as a distributor of shower timers and other water saving products. But conserving water is broader than this narrow definition.
Supply and quality cause water shortages. Supply left over 1000 people without tap water in the small town of Porterville, California in Tulare County when their shallow wells went dry. Water quality explains why half a million people were left without clean drinking water in Toledo, Ohio for three days last summer.
The food in my kitchen impacts water systems around the world. The fruit, vegetables and grain I eat impacts well water levels of residents and farmers alike. Dairy and meat choices either contribute to nutrient runoff, causing toxic blooms like the ones flourishing on Lake Erie or encourage thriving soil that draws the water downward to replenish aquifers.
We are facing a frightening future, one rife with water shortages, referred to as water scarcity, caused by shortages of supply and diminished quality. Experts meeting at the World Water Forum in Istanbul in 2009 predicted 2/3 of the world’s population will experience water scarcity by 2025. It is a situation expected to result in an unprecedented rise in military conflicts. And while you, I, and our children may be among the fortunate, living far from a military zone, with a flowing tap of fresh, clean water, none of us will be untouched by a water-scarce world. At the very least it will change what we eat.
The farmers and food producers I’ve interviewed around the U.S. show me a different way to approach farming. One in synch with the surrounding environment. One that works to replenish the river not pollute it, one that serves to regenerate the soil, not lose it. But they need us to buy their food. To be engaged eaters. I’m convinced If we eat different en masse we will rewrite the story.
Eat less water at the kitchen table! There is power in the collective.
FYI, you can find the recipes for several of the menu items pictured above here.