Environmentalists suggest drought diet to save precious water

LONG BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- Beyond shorter showers and brown lawns, ecology experts say, look at food choices to cut water consumption.

"It's called water foot-printing. It's the invisible water that's embedded into our daily life," said Evan Marks of the Ecology Center.

Marks teaches kids of all ages to turn off the faucet in a host of ways. Eating less beef and smaller portions of food will help right off the bat.

"It's almost 1,200 gallons to produce a pound of beef. That's about 650 gallons of water to produce one hamburger," Marks said.

Studies show 99 percent of that water goes for feed for cows.

Meat consumption in the U.S. accounts for 30 percent of our water footprint, so Marks suggest going meatless at least one day a week. That will save an average of 200 gallons.

Buying local and shopping at farmers markets reduces our water footprint too. Here's why:

"Three quarters of a gallon of water go into one mile of transportation. If we buy food from Chile, that's about 2,000 miles away, that's almost 1,500 gallons of water," Marks said.

Even produce choices can make a difference.

"If broccoli, for example, only takes 34 gallons to produce and then you have something that (takes) 250 gallons, like an asparagus, it might be a better choice to choose the broccoli," said Paul Buchanan, owner of Primal Alchemy Catering.

Whether you're eating or gardening, some swaps are huge.

A pound of tea costs 108 gallons of water to make, coffee over 1,000.

A pound of potatoes needs 34 gallons to produce. The same amount of oats, 290 gallons.

While a pound of tomatoes need 26 gallons of water, artichokes require 98 gallons.

Shifting what crops are grown here will help considerably, but consumers can do their part by washing dishes with the same water used to wash the produce.

Beyond making smart choices at the grocery store and the restaurant, one of the things you can do that doesn't cost much is get yourself a personal water bottle.

By not using plastic bottles, you save 6 gallons of water per bottle.

Want to know your water footprint? Take the test on the water calculator website.
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