My Dad has always loved the water. He grew up in Miami, which probably has something to do with his attraction to it. Whether skiing, fishing, or boating, any time he is on the water he is happy.
From a young age, my Dad had me out on the water. I fondly remember lazy summer afternoons boating and skiing around Lake Allatoona in north Georgia. I never fell in love with the water like my Dad, but I did come to appreciate it. For us, the lake was a chance to grow closer together as a family.
I also remember thinking as a kid that Lake Allatoona was immense. We could spend all day cruising around and still only see a portion of it. I just checked, and it apparently spans over 12,000 acres in surface area, with a maximum depth of 145 feet. So yeah, it’s big.
And that’s just one lake. Surely, when you add it to all of the other lakes and rivers out there, plus the snowfall that melts each spring, we must have an immense amount of freshwater. Right?
It turns out that only 2.5% of Earth’s water is freshwater, with most of that being locked up in glaciers, tundra and ice caps. Surface water (lakes, rivers, snow and ice), which is the most renewable of water sources, makes up a mere 1.3% of Earth’s freshwater (Food Foolish, p. 75). Multiply those numbers together, and only about 0.0325% of Earth’s H2O is fresh surface water. Yes, there’s a lot of water on Earth. We just can’t drink most of it.
Our freshwater is precious and limited. Moreover, we are extremely dependent upon this water for the food we eat. Approximately 70% of our global water consumption is devoted to agriculture, with industry and domestic uses accounting for 20% and 10% respectively (Food Foolish, p. 78).
See, that’s the thing. I expect most of us believe that the greatest amount of water we consume comes in the form of showers, baths, and drinks. Nope, and it’s not close. It turns out that one person’s healthy, balanced diet can result in the consumption of up to 1,300 gallons of embedded water (all of the water used to grow the food we eat) every day (Food Foolish, p. 79).
For every strawberry we waste, we flush almost a half-gallon of water down the proverbial drain. Toss a tomato, and there goes 3.3 gallons (Food Foolish, p. 82). That forgotten head of broccoli in the fridge needed 5.4 gallons of water to grow (Food Foolish, p. 79). So when we waste food, we waste water. A lot of water.
How much in total? 250 cubic kilometers of water is wasted every year in the form of food loss and waste, which is 38 times larger than U.S. domestic water consumption (Food Foolish, p. 82).
Simply put, in a world with rapidly expanding population and already stressed freshwater resources, we just can’t afford to throw our food (and water) away.