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By Laura Stec

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About this blog: I've been attracted to food for good and bad reasons for many years. From eating disorder to east coast culinary school, food has been my passion, profession & nemesis. I've been a sugar addict, a 17-year vegetarian, a food and en...  (More)

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Our Water Guzzling Food Factory

Uploaded: Jul 16, 2015

All the media about almonds lately got me feeling guilty and adjusting recipes to replace those thirsty little devils with other options like sesame and sun seeds.

Feeling guilty, that is, until I read how much water other foods take to produce:

One almond: 1 gallon
One walnut: 2 gallons 

A head of lettuce: 12 gallons 

One mandarin orange: 14 gallons

A bunch of grapes: 24 gallons 

A shower: 25 gallons 

A single washing machine load: 35 gallons 

One egg: 53 gallons 

One beef patty: 450 gallons 

A pound of chicken: 468 gallons 

A gallon of milk: 880 gallons 

A pound of beef: 1,800 gallons 
*

Animal products consume the most water because we first need to grow grain or hay to feed the animals.

If you're interested in learning more about where the water in Palo Alto comes from, read Veronica Weber's article in the Palo Alto Weekly. She tracks how it travels 167 miles through a 92-year old system that provides 2.4 million Bay Area residents with most of their drinking water. The paper prints a great picture of the route from Hetch Hetchy Reservoir to here, but I can't find the same graphic online.

I wonder where the water from Menlo Park and Mountain View comes from?




* Source: "Our Water-Guzzling Food Factory" by Nicholas Kristof, NYTimes.com, May 30, 2015

On another note - (macrobiotic) Summer Camp was wild this year - but we survived! For pictures of camp, the outdoor kitchen, the pickle class, and the bear visit click here.

Comments

 +   2 people like this
Posted by Steve, a resident of Shoreline West,
on Jul 16, 2015 at 4:20 pm

"I wonder where the water from Menlo Park and Mountain View comes from?"

From the city's website:

The City of Mountain View distributes over 4.2 billion gallons of fluoridated water annually to its customers. Approximately 87% of the City's water is treated surface water imported from the Sierra Nevada Mountains and purchased from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission's Hetch Hetchy system. The remaining water is purchased from the Santa Clara Valley Water District, and a small amount of the City's water is pumped from a deep aquifer through the City's water wells.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by MV Resident, a resident of Mountain View,
on Jul 16, 2015 at 5:46 pm

"I wonder where the water from Menlo Park and Mountain View comes from?"

Steve covered the Mountain View basics; the southwestern part of Mountain View gets its water from the SCVWD. The water pumped from the City of Mountain View wells is basically runoff supplied from the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Menlo Park, like basically all towns on the SF Peninsula gets its drinking water from the SFPUC. Basically, if you live in area code 650 and you don't have a well, you're drinking Hetch Hetchy. This includes coastal communities like Half Moon Bay. Most of the people with residential wells are in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Some of the Hetch Hetchy water comes through pipes just south of the Dumbarton Bridge; the rest of it arrives in pipes that run along the South Bay and it all ends up at Crystal Springs Reservoir for holding. About a third of the water goes to SF, the rest goes to San Mateo County, portions of northwestern Santa Clara County (basically Palo Alto and Mountain View), and Alameda (the pipe that runs along the Bay Bridge also supplies water for Treasure Island).

Here's a graphic from Wikipedia that shows the basic path of the Hetch Hetchy water that supples our area: Web Link

Hey, Laura, if you shower with someone else, you'll cut your personal consumption by 50%, at least for that activity. ;-)


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Steven, a resident of Midtown,
on Jul 16, 2015 at 5:54 pm

Thank you for sharing this information. I hope people will take it into consideration when choosing their foods.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by NeHi, a resident of Cuesta Park,
on Jul 16, 2015 at 8:26 pm

Your graph would be useful if it was in gallons per pound of product. Now we have to guess what the production is.

I think we could live with the value of a pound of product ['tho I consume little alfalfa]. How 'bout Milo and Kaffercorn?

I think I'll stick to onions and garlic, no problem there.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Steve, a resident of Shoreline West,
on Jul 17, 2015 at 10:07 am

Here is an article with gallons water / pound

Web Link


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of another community,
on Jul 17, 2015 at 11:28 am

That's the graph MV Resident (and are you trying to get me in trouble again?):) Great info, and thanks to Steve too. Food Party! readers are smart!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jul 17, 2015 at 1:48 pm

Since we are on the subject, my understanding is that our water contains fluoride and chloramine.

Imagine all the water that you use, and how infrequently anyone actually drinks tap water anymore,
and I have to wonder why we spend the money to fluoridate our water anymore?

I don't know if this is true or not but a "documentary" I saw on fluoridated water has most of the
fluoride instead of earth based minerals coming from industrial waste. It is not the same compound
that most of us of a previous generation used to get in our water.

If you think about it, putting fluoride in the water is supposed to be a treatment for the supposed
disease of dental cavities, and yet there is no prescription here, no dosage and the most inefficient
and uncontrolled administration regime you could imagine.

Surely, if fluoride is an effective treatment for teeth there has got to be a better way to apply it
to people than flushing it down the toilet, watering your yard or doing dishes with it, or all of
the thousands of ways we use water that does not benefit from fluoride at all.

Today if someone wanted to put fluoride in our water there would be no way it would ever pass
muster of the FDA ... so I do wonder why we use it.

--

Then, the chloramine is another problem. I guess it is a tradeoff to lower costs that they put
chlorine and ammonia in the water to kill biologically active stuff, but it is almost impossible
and very costly to get rid of and I'm told if you have a fish tank you cannot get rid of it by
leaving it overnight to allow the chlorine to evaporate off.

Just to put things in perspective how much water do we use whenever we have a meal?
They tell us to wash our produce, but it takes even more water to water produce, and I've
read that most people do not begin to get their produce clean when they wash it. Then
when we are done we have to do the dishes.

I'm thinking pretty soon we are all going to have obsolete toilets in our houses if you
consider what the water costs of transporting human waste around by aqueous subway.
We have compost buckets now in Palo Alto ( though I am not quite sure how or if I
must use them ). What about a truck coming to collect our "honeypot" of human waste,
how much water would we save but collecting waste and complicated would that be?


 +   10 people like this
Posted by Reader, a resident of another community,
on Jul 17, 2015 at 3:10 pm

Fluoridation of drinking water is determined by the State Water Resources Control Board's Division of Drinking Water (DDW) who in turn follow recommendations from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Agency (HHS). There's more info from the state's website: Web Link

The HHS recommendation is fluoride content to 0.7 mg/L (parts per million).

"DDW is responsible for regulating the activities of fluoridating public water systems in California. This responsibility includes assuring water fluoridation is conducted in a safe and effective manner. Public water systems must obtain a permit from DDW to fluoridate their drinking water supplies and must monitor the fluoride levels in their water system on a daily basis. The operational and monitoring information is also reported to DDW."

I don't know if there's a more widespread delivery method to get fluoride to the general public, particularly children who are the ones who suffer the most from dental caries. Sure there's toothpaste, but not every kid brushes their teeth on a regular basis.

Argue all you want about the efficacy of water fluoridation, but here's the Wikipedia article for reference: Web Link

If you could take out the fluoride, you'd save a buck a year on your water bill per person, but with an 20-30% increase in risk of cavities, you might end up spending more money and time at the dentist office. Which option would you prefer?

Note that the efficacy of fluoride at preventing dental caries has been globally recognized (including the WHO), it's not just something one the little ol' SF Peninsula does. In some countries, it's more practical to fluoridate a common food item (salt, milk) because adding it to water is impractical.

Fluoride is readily accessible to privileged kids in nice neighborhoods whose parents make sure they brush their teeth with fluoridated toothpaste, but many other kids do not receive that sort of oversight. Thus, fluoridating a common food item (water, etc.) is the most socially equitable manner in ensuring that youngsters in an area are receiving at least some fluoride, even if it's a small amount of water they drink, or the ice cubes they put in their beverages.

Chloramine has been replacing chlorine as a drinking water disinfectant for several years due to its stability, lower level of dissipation, as well a lower tendency to form carcinogenic chlorocarbons (as compared to chlorine). It is true that chloraminated water is contraindicated for kidney dialysis, as well as fish and amphibian pet owners; one can remove chloramine using several chemicals (you can get some at the pet store for your fish tank, not expensive).

Wastewater treatment plants also remove the chloramine as part of their process. This includes the Palo Alto sewage treatment plant; much of their treated water ends up in the SF Bay (they do have some customers for their treated water).

The SFPUC now uses UV light as the primary drinking water disinfectant; chloramine is the secondary disinfectant. Stability and lower dissipation are important for a secondary disinfectant because of the time, distance, etc. that the water may sit before it gets to your faucet.

The water I use to wash produce is usually dumped on plants (both indoors and outside).


 +  Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jul 18, 2015 at 4:10 am

> If you could take out the fluoride, you'd save a buck a year on your water bill
> per person, but with an 20-30% increase in risk of cavities, you might end up
> spending more money and time at the dentist office. Which option would you prefer?

This is basically a false argument. It's one of those things like drinking milk
and eating dairy is great for your bones, globally known, only the countries that
eat the most dairy are the same ones that have the worst osteoporosis. If
people want floride treatments, and they are useful of applies to tooth enamel
when you are young, fine, dumping it a public resource and medicating me or
anyone else without a prescription is not right.

> one can remove chloramine using several chemicals (you can get some at the
> pet store for your fish tank, not expensive).

They may sell stuff for removing chloramine, and there are tons of filters and
remedies for removing it, including dumping vitamin C is your water, and most
of them are nonsense.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Reader, a resident of another community,
on Jul 18, 2015 at 8:24 am

@CrescentParkAnon:

"They may sell stuff for removing chloramine, and there are tons of filters and remedies for removing it, including dumping vitamin C is your water, and most of them are nonsense."

Well, the stuff they sell at the pet store seems to work for fish owners. I don't know what other products you have tried or seeked but this doesn't seem to be an issue.

Maybe you should reconsider your sources.

As I mentioned, fluoridation is considered as a effective method to reduce dental caries and by putting it in a common food product (water, milk) does allow for the greater distribution to high-risk groups.

If you can devise a better solution for fluoridation, I suggest you contact the HHS and WHO with your recommendations.

Maybe you will win a Nobel Prize for your triumphal victory of the global evil of water fluoridation.

Best of luck in your noble crusade!


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Parent, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Jul 18, 2015 at 8:28 am

CrescentParkAnon,

Are you angry at the world or just ranting?

If you're ranting, aren't there more important things to rail against than fluoride?


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Water per pound of food, a resident of Woodside: other,
on Jul 18, 2015 at 10:28 am

Here are some samplings of water usage to produce 1 lb of various foods. Surprising! This is from the Steve's link above.

Tea requires 108 gallons of water per gallon of brewed tea.
Coffee requires almost 10 times as much water, using 1,056 gallons of water per gallon of brewed coffee.

Beer at 296 gallons of water per gallon of beer.
Wine takes 872 gallons of water to produce 1 gallon of wine. But if you look at standard servings of each, the race gets closer with about 28 gallons of water needed for 12 fluid ounces of beer and 34 gallons of water needed for 5 fluid ounces of wine.

Chicken at 518 gallons of water per pound.
Beef requires the most water, at 1,847 gal./lb., followed by
sheep at 1,248 gal./lb. and
pork at 718 gal./lb.
eggs, which take 395 gal./lb.
dairy products, cheese and butter take more than milk at 381 gal./lb. and 665 gal./lb. respectively.
Milk by itself uses only 122 gallons of water per pound.

Tofu at 302 gal./lb.
Lentils 704 gallons of water to produce one pound of lentils. Chickpeas require less than lentils at 501 gal./lb., and
soybeans require less than the more processed tofu, at 257 gal./lb. All of these options are better than eating beef, sheep or pork.

Pasta at 222 gal./lb.
Rice isn't too far away, requiring 299 gallons of water per pound of processed rice.
Bread (made from wheat) takes 193 gal./lb. and barley consumes 237 gal./lb.

Unprocessed potatoes at 34 gal./lb. It takes 290 gallons of water to produce one pound of rolled or flaked oats.
Sweet potatoes also take less water, using 46 gal./lb., while unprocessed corn requires 146 gal./lb.

Hazelnuts and walnuts at 1,260 gal./lb. and 1,112 gal./lb. respectively. Almonds and cashews take more, averaging 1,929 gal./lb. and 1,704 gal./lb.
Pistachios take 1,362 gallons of water to produce one pound of

Raisins and dates at 292 gal./lb. and 273 gal./lb. respectively, though all three of these take more water than most fruits.
Figs require the most -- producing one pound of figs requires 401 gallons of water.

Citrus, at 67 gal./lb. for oranges, 61 gal./lb. for grapefruit and 77 gal./lb. for lemons.
Plums require 261 gal./lb., apricots 154 gal./lb. and peaches 109 gal./lb.
Avocados are also higher on the list at 141 gal./lb., while
Apples, bananas, grapes, and kiwis all take less than 100 gal./lb. Strawberries, pineapple, and watermelon require less than 50 gallons of water per pound of fruit.

Broccoli at a scant 34 gal./lb., along with cauliflower and brussel sprouts.
Asparagus is the water hog of the veggies, requiring 258 gallons of water per pound.

Garlic at 71 gal./lb.
Olives require 361 gal./lb.

Tomato at 26 gal./lb.
Eggplant requires a still quite low 43 gal./lb.
Artichokes cucumbers, and lettuce require 98 gal./lb., 42 gal./lb. and 28 gal./lb., respectively.

Olive oil, which requires 1,729 of water per pound to produce. That's more then all oils except castor oil.
Corn oil takes 309 gal./lb., sunflower 814 gal./lb. and soybean 502 gal./lb.
Coconut oil requires 538 gallons of water.

Chocolate at 2,061 gal./lb., but this sadly still takes more water to produce than beef. Though we doubt you'll be eating a pound of chocolate any time soon.
Cocoa powder takes 1,874 gal./lb.
Vanilla beans top the charts at 15,159 gal./lb., though they are usually used in very small quantities.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by bp, no not that BP, a resident of Midtown,
on Jul 18, 2015 at 10:41 am

We could just stop eating😄. I don't buy bottled water since we have a good water source and that means that I m not filling up the recycle bin with those pesky little bottles.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge,
on Jul 18, 2015 at 10:46 am

Water per pound of food - WOW! The Food Party! just got a lot more to talk about!


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Missing the Big Issue, a resident of another community,
on Jul 18, 2015 at 3:37 pm

Yes, crops grown in California use plenty of water, but it's not entirely necessary.

Water efficient irrigation methods could cut the amount needed by half, give or take. That's not negligible. At present, some farmers use these, and some don't. Why? Because they pay much less for water than residents in the cities. For a CCF or 748 gallons, a resident might pay anywhere from $1 to $15 in our cities. The farmer pays much less than $1 per CCF. Why? Where's the logic in that?

The farmers have also been drawing down very aquifers throughout the state. This water can't be replaced practically speaking--the draw down has gone beyond that. The water table will never rise back up to where it was 10 years ago, or even 3 years ago.

Finally, consider that farms in this drought produced a record value of crops this past year. They made some cutbacks, but they switched to crops that could be exported for cash. So the California water raising that Alfalfa and Almonds is going to feed beef exported to Asia and to add to Almond production, also to export to Asia. All of this is in the name of money.

The farmers should pay something toward the true value of the water their farms consume, regardless of "water rights" and so forth. Only if it costs them, will they stop pumping from the ground and consuming so much water from the rivers and water diversion projects....


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by rice is a water waster, a resident of Fairmeadow,
on Jul 18, 2015 at 8:15 pm

Move Rice and Cotton to states that get regular rainfall.

Ridiculous to think we plant such thirsty crops that do just as well elsewhere.

I'm guessing that may also apply to alfalfa, but am unaware of the particulars.

Do a search for the CA rice lobby. Wow.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Steve, a resident of Shoreline West,
on Jul 18, 2015 at 10:05 pm

"The farmer pays much less than $1 per CCF. Why? Where's the logic in that?"

It's not treated.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of another community,
on Jul 19, 2015 at 8:09 am

The CA ag water rights are so antiquated. What do they say? It's a system designed 100 years ago that no longer fits the industry - and certainly not the small farmer. One that could never change without a "huge fight?" I guess it's time to fight.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jul 20, 2015 at 8:05 pm

> Posted by Parent, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis, on Jul 18, 2015 at 8:28 am
> CrescentParkAnon,
> Are you angry at the world or just ranting?


Parent, I'm sorry, where again are there any angry words in what I wrote.

I confess to being a little miffed that instead of expressing your intent with
seems to be resentment that I posted what I did, you try to make it about
me sounding angry when I was writing to inform about something people
do not often think about or consider. Why is it that you need to find some
kind of subtle way to marginalize my comment? No one is forcing you to
read anything I wrote.

Believe me, if you will look you will see there are reason to not fluoridate water,
and that much of what we have been told is marketing fluff. If we care about
carries/cavities, then it would be many multiples times more cost effective to
stop selling sugary, processed, no-fiber food that is what rots people's teeth.

Also, there are measurable markers or chloramine exposure in our bodies
when we take a shower in chloramine-ed water. At least if we need to we
used to be able to set water out and the chlorine would evaporate, easy,
low tech and available to everyone. Can't do that. We last that ... did anyone
ask you because no one asked me about it?

Why should I have to pay for, whatever the price, and take into my body a
medication without does or prescription that supports an industry that cannot
and does not validate its own effectiveness scientifically.

Sorry, again. are you reading that as anger again, because I am asking a
purely objective question. Why would me writing a comment about Cl and
F inspire you to somehow turn on me?


> If you're ranting, aren't there more important things to rail against than fluoride?


You mean like ranting against people whose rants you disagree with them I suppose?
But yes, there are more important things to do ... how about you, do you have
anything more important than worrying about my nonexistent anger?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Belle stafford, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills,
on Jul 22, 2015 at 1:00 pm

Thank you Laura for this post and for being willing to talk about the "cow in the room", which mainstream media completely avoids. It is not well-known but only 4% of our water is consumed in household use, but 47% is used in animal agriculture.
One day it will be clear that we don't have the resources to support a meat and dairy based food system. I highly recommend the documentary Cowspiracy to learn more, the information is presented in a humorous, easy to understand way, with graphics and wonderful, well-respected speakers and authors. The website truth or drought is also chock full of info about water and our food choices. Again, thanks Laura for bringing these taboo subjects to light.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Eileen Wright, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jul 23, 2015 at 3:20 pm

>> For a CCF or 748 gallons, a resident might pay anywhere from $1 to $15 in our cities. The farmer pays much less than $1 per CCF. Why? Where's the logic in that? The farmers have also been drawing down very aquifers throughout the state. <<

Farmers are a quaint relic from the past we can no longer afford. We need the land for housing and the water for people to use. It is time to tell them to cut out all that subsidized gardening and just get their food at Trader Joes like the rest of us.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of Portola Valley,
on Jul 23, 2015 at 5:22 pm

Thank you everyone for an interesting week - I learned a lot. If you didn't this time, if you use a fact/number/whatever, remember to quote the source. That's really helpful. I do believe just from my own head, that the water rights in CA are antiquated and hopefully, we are on our way to improvement. Cowgirl up, anyone?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by John Perkins, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Oct 8, 2015 at 1:56 pm

Hey Laura,

What did you think of the documentary Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret?

This is a good simple article you've written on the subject. Certainly there's more to write regarding the different types of destruction that animal agriculture causes as a result of the choices humans make. You have a great opportunity to really make a difference in this world telling it like it really is.

Regards,
John


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of another community,
on Oct 9, 2015 at 8:39 am

John Perkins, Cowspiracy - I haven't seen it but Belle Stafford has told me all about it. I think yea! Leave a few take-aways you have gotten from the movie



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