Water Conservation Associated with a Plant-Based Diet

Dollar Creek Lake Tahoe Photo August 9, 2014

My dirty car and golden lawn serve as constant reminders that the drought has not yet lifted. Taking shorter showers and installing low-flow or high efficiency appliances are just a few ways we can conserve water. According to a recent study published in Environmental Research Letters, reducing the amount of meat in our diets can also reduce water usage. Agriculture consumes up to 90% of the world’s fresh water, and the amount of water required for animal protein production is significantly higher than for plant-based protein production. The researchers developed a model taking recommended dietary guidelines and traditionally and culturally acceptable food composition into consideration to determine the change in water use. They analyzed both “green water,” which is naturally infiltrated by rain and attached to soil particles, and “blue water,” which is water from rivers, lakes, reservoirs, etc. In their model, they limited the amount of animal protein to 50%, 25%, 12.5%, and 0% of total protein intake. Here’s what they found. “Reducing the animal product contribution in the diet would decrease global green water consumption by 6%, 11%, 15% and 21% within the four applied scenarios, while for blue water, the reductions would be 4%, 6%, 9% and 14%.” Switching to a plant-based diet is much more sustainable and more likely to meet the growing needs of an ever-increasing population.

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