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World Water Day 2012 examines the relationship between water and food security

Posted in NEWS on Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Have you ever thought about where the water you drink, cook with, or bathe in comes from? Access to clean water is central to our well-being. It is a critical resource necessary for survival, contributing to human health, nourishment, irrigation and transportation. When we turn on the faucet or shower or flush a toilet, we don’t often think about the possibility of water being a scarce resource.

United Nations World Water Day, recognized annually on March 22, aims to highlight the importance of the sustainable management of freshwater resources. The theme for 2012 is “Water and Food Security,” emphasizing the connection between better access to clean water and lower levels of famine, undernourishment, and food shortages. As competition for water and food across the world increases, conservation of precious resources becomes more important.

Consider the following facts about water and food security around the world*:

  • Water scarcity already impacts every continent and more than 40% of the people on our planet. By 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world’s population could be living under water stressed conditions.
  • There are over 7 billion people to feed on the planet today and another 2 billion are expected by 2050. This population increase means that 70% more food will be needed, up to 100% in developing countries.
  • It takes nearly 800 gallons of water to produce enough food to satisfy a person’s daily needs. Each person drinks anywhere from 0.5 to 1 gallon of water every day. However most of the water we consume is embedded in the food we eat, meaning that wasted food equates to wasted water.
  • 396 gallons of water are required to produce about 2 pounds of wheat. It takes 10 times more water (3960 gallons) to produce the same amount (2 pounds) of beef! Producing feed crops for livestock, slaughtering and the processing of meat, milk and other dairy products also require large quantities of water.

Did you know about these water conservation projects at Vanderbilt?

  • Plant Services and Plant Operations Plumbing Shops’ have retrofitted thousands of water-saving bathroom fixtures on main campus and in the medical center, which result in estimated water savings of over 30 million gallons and $175,000 each year.
  • Plant Operations continues to capture non-potable groundwater that collects in utility tunnels beneath campus to irrigate the athletic fields and in the on-campus cogeneration power plant cooling towers. By capturing this water and redirecting it, Vanderbilt is reducing water purchases from Metro Water and sewer by an additional 50 million gallons a year.
  • Plant Services has implemented condensation recycling in MRB III, which takes water from the air and redirects it to the building’s cooling towers rather than sending it down the drain. The project saves an estimated $32,000 and 2.5 million gallons of water each year.

If you’d like to do your part on World Water Day, here are several suggestions for conserving water and food waste:

  • Turn off the water when it is not in use.
  • Wash full, rather than partial, loads of labware, dishes or clothes in cold water, which also saves energy, whenever possible.
  • In residential environments, take efficient showers and turn off the water when brushing your teeth. Consider using a shower timer to gauge the amount of time you actually spend in the shower each day.
  • Don’t purchase, order, or take food that you won’t eat. Wrap-up any leftovers in your own reusable to-go container to enjoy later or consider freezing them for a future meal.
  • Purchase food items that have been produced sustainably utilizing practices that are environmentally-friendly, healthy, ethical to both humans and animals, and supportive of farming communities. Look for items produced locally without pesticides, chemical fertilizers, factory farming, hormones and non-therapeutic use of antibiotics.
  • Try eating vegetarian for a meal – you might like it! Production of meat can be resource intensive, consuming fossil fuels, water, and land, and creating pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

For more information about World Water Day 2012, visit the United Nations World Water Day web page. For more information about Vanderbilt’s sustainability program, visit SustainVU, become a fan of SEMO’s SustainVU Facebook page, or contact SEMO at SustainVU@vanderbilt.edu or 322-2057.

*Statistics retrieved and adapted from the United Nations World Water Day 2012 Frequently Asked Questions web page.

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