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Moral dilemma: Eat globally, water locally?

 
Bert Bates
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Trying to wrap my brain around this one...

One pound of beef takes about 2000-3000 gallons of water to produce (a pound of chicken takes about 800 gallons, a pound of wheat about 25 gallons).

I've got about a 1.5 acre lawn / pasture that I'd like to keep green for my horses to munch on. So far this little pasture gives them about 1/2 of their nutrition, the rest comes from the hay we feed them.

So the neighbors are complaining about me watering the lawn/pasture too much, but I'm sure most of the neighbors aren't vegetarians. I eat NO mammals and not much poultry.

So on the global scale my water consumption is probably less than most, but on the local scale it's higher than most.

Can I honestly tell myself that my behavior is okay since it appears to be okay on the global scale, or do I have to be concerned on both the global AND local scales?
 
Arvind Mahendra
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It appears none of the people have read any of your books. This is a very tough situation you have because if you give that justification above, they may very well say something like "well two wrongs don't make a right". I always have a policy of not socializing much with neighbors(just a convenient head nod every now and then) and maintain a strict don't ask don't tell policy with pretty much everyone else. I guess if you do have to speak with them, you can say things like I compensate in other ways - bio diesel, solar, showering with less water etc. And also reassure them, the water goes back to the water table and so your actions won't create a shortage or anything so they can just chillax.
 
Deepak Bala
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huh ? what business does a neighbor have with how you spend your water ? Yes it is ok to water your lawn. Nothing wrong with it
 
Mike Simmons
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Hm, kind of missing the point, Deepak. That's fine if we live on a world of infinite resources - but since we don't, isn't there any point at which it becomes justified, or even necessary, for a neighbor to take an interest in how you consume resources?

To Bert: I think this may depend a bit on your local situation. I've lived in arid regions, arid for the US anyway, and during drought years it's not unusual for local governments to ask people to cut back on their water usage. Especially regarding lawns, which in this context can be seen as inefficient extravagant wastes. (At least for those who aren't also using the lawn as food for their horses.) So if you happen to be in an area currently suffering a water shortage, I can sort of see where the neighbors are coming from. One thing about water is that, while it's cheap compared to other goods we consume, we also need a lot of it. And it's rarely cost-effective to ship it over large distances. So a local water shortage remains a local water shortage , even if there's a much bigger water surplus thousands of miles away.

Of course, if you're not in an area with a local water shortage, it may just be that your neighbors are just petty busybodies who need to be ignored, or slapped.
 
Deepak Bala
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So if you happen to be in an area currently suffering a water shortage, I can sort of see where the neighbors are coming from


Agreed.

Of course, if you're not in an area with a local water shortage, it may just be that your neighbors are just petty busybodies who need to be ignored, or slapped.


This is what I was leaning towards
 
Maneesh Godbole
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I am not aware of things in US, but in Pune, the local government actively encourages people to recycle. e.g. Instead of draining water after washing the utensils, it can be reused for gardens. I know of many places where bath water is filtered and recycled for plants and car wash. Rain water harvesting is also being much talked about for the last couple of years. Food wastes can also be recycled as manure. Homes implementing such measures attract a discount in their taxes.
If possible, you might want to consider such measures. You mentioned 1.5 acres. Maybe you can comeup with an artificial pond or something which can be filled up with recycled/rain water?

I am not sure if you wanted to analyze the statistics for yourself or you were planning to use them in "discussions" with your neighbors. It has been my experience that logic seldom works with crowds. Also, if they are not animal lovers, they will hardly see your point.
When I was young, I had a Labrador. I am 6 feet tall. He could stand on his hind legs, put his paws on my shoulders and lick my face. He was that big. Once I had neighbors complain to me about bathing my dog...once a week. I just referred them to my dog. Problem solved.
 
Deepak Bala
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Rain water harvesting is also being much talked about for the last couple of years.


It was implemented successfully in many houses and did great wonders for the water table.

Once I had neighbors complain to me about bathing my dog...once a week.


Their complaint is that your dog should never have to bathe ?
 
Ernest Friedman-Hill
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Hi Bert,

Do you have a handle on how much water you use for the pasture?
 
fred rosenberger
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You're not watering your lawn, you're watering your crops.
 
Henry Wong
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As a side note, are your neighbors complaining because they feel that you are using too much water? Or are your neighbors complaining because the water runoff from your usage is affecting them somehow?

Henry
 
John Smith
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Bert Bates wrote:
One pound of beef takes about 2000-3000 gallons of water to produce (a pound of chicken takes about 800 gallons, a pound of wheat about 25 gallons).


Can you include a link to where this information is coming from? An average cow weight is around 1,000 pounds, which means that it takes between 2 and 3 million gallons of water? This seems like a gross overestimation.
 
Ernest Friedman-Hill
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John Smith wrote:
Bert Bates wrote:
One pound of beef takes about 2000-3000 gallons of water to produce (a pound of chicken takes about 800 gallons, a pound of wheat about 25 gallons).


Can you include a link to where this information is coming from? An average cow weight is around 1,000 pounds, which means that it takes between 2 and 3 million gallons of water? This seems like a gross overestimation.


A cow is not made entirely of beef, though.
 
Henry Wong
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John Smith wrote:
Can you include a link to where this information is coming from? An average cow weight is around 1,000 pounds, which means that it takes between 2 and 3 million gallons of water? This seems like a gross overestimation.


I just did a quick google, and the first link estimated it at 2500 gallons / per pound. Of course, the beef industry has a different estimate -- something under 500 gallons per pound.

Henry
 
John Smith
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Henry Wong wrote:
I just did a quick google, and the first link estimated it at 2500 gallons / per pound. Of course, the beef industry has a different estimate -- something under 500 gallons per pound.


According to my calcs, lake Michigan holds about 1.3*10^15 gallons of water, and there are 100 million cows in the US. At the rate of 2,500 gallons per pound of beef, it took about 20% of the entire lake Michigan water to raise the damned cows?
 
Henry Wong
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John Smith wrote:
According to my calcs, lake Michigan holds about 1.3*10^15 gallons of water, and there are 100 million cows in the US. At the rate of 2,500 gallons per pound of beef, it took about 20% of the entire lake Michigan water to raise the damned cows?


That's what the articles says too... Especially, the NewsWeek quote that states "the water that goes into a 1,000 pound steer would float a destroyer."

Wow... kinda makes me guilty to eat a burger...
Henry
 
Jeanne Boyarsky
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I like this thread more than the tweet because it's a discussion.

Bert Bates wrote:I've got about a 1.5 acre lawn / pasture that I'd like to keep green for my horses to munch on. So far this little pasture gives them about 1/2 of their nutrition, the rest comes from the hay we feed them.

If your horses weren't grazing, they'd still be eating. So it's impossible all the water you use is waste. I have no idea how much water it takes to produce hay or grain. I'm guessing hay is less and grain is more. Then there is the fact that at least some of the water for the lawn is from the rain. Maybe not much, but again more than zero.

The other side of it is whether you use the water optimally. I don't mind if people are going to water there lawn (unless we are in a drought.) However, there's a big difference between watering your lawn and watering it around noon or for hours.

Speaking of the neighbors - do they use water? Do they know you are a vegetarian? Not that it helps. It's not like you are going to take out a calculator to discuss the lawn.
 
Bert Bates
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A little more info...

First off, yeah the 1 lb of beef = 2500 gal. is pretty shocking. You have to include the water used to irrigate the corn that the cows eat, plus the water used to irrigate the pastures of hay they eat. Not that much goes to what the cows drink directly. A lot of the water has been coming from the enormously huge Ogallala aquifer that sits under Texas and Nebraska. It's definitely in the Great Lakes sort of order of magnitude.

I'd like to see some sort of water credit system... for example everyone gets 5000 credits / week, so if you want a Big Mac, you fork over 500 credits, you want a shower, that'll be 10 credits, and so on. Of course it wouldn't work, but it sure would get folks' attention

Anyway, I'm trying to calculate how much water I'd like to use - I'm guessing I want to use maybe 3000 gallons / week. I'm getting flow meters, sprinkler timers, moisture sensors and all that stuff. Also, it's true that this is a seasonal issue, in amount a month we'll be in monsoon season and I won't have to waorry about this until next June or so.

The neighbors are operating mostly on mythology, and as has been mentioned, they're not all that interested in sitting down with calculators
 
John Smith
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While the amount of water required to produce beef is indeed enormous, I don't see a "moral dilemma" which you've apparently been trying to resolve. Water is a commodity, a resource, just like any other natural resource, such as natural gas, precious metals and timber. You don't hear your neighbors complaining that you keep the thermostat too high in the winter, or that you wife has too much jewelry, or that you have too much furniture, do you?
 
Bert Bates
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To be a little more explicit, we live in a rural area, perhaps that goes without saying

Our neighbors say, and there is some truth to their logic, that all of the neighborhood's wells are, to a degree, connected. It's almost certainly true that we share parts of the same watershed, but my non-trivial amount of research indicates that I'm not going to adversely affect my direct neighborhood's water table.

I suspect that I'll need to water only about 4 months / year. I feel that my overall water usage footprint (even if I use 3000 or 4000 gallons of water / week for the pasture), is still well below average, even if on a neighborhood level it's higher than average. But the neighbors are taking only the local view - they don't factor the beef they eat into the equation because, hey, that's not THEIR water that's being used for the beef.

So I don't want to freak my neighbors out, but I also want the horses to get some pasture time.
 
Darya Akbari
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Bert,

why should your neighbors care about your equation? If the source of your local water is the same then why should they care about the beef and its connection to the global water consumption? You are on the local side of concern only. It's the local water that you share not the global water. Your assumptions that your neighbors eat beef is also wrong. You simply don't know. Your neighbor can be the same like you but just consuming 10% of what you consume from that local water.

Now if you have a source that is unlimited and you pay for your water consumption then your neighbors have no right to complain. But when this is not the case and you simply use more than your share is, your neighbors are absolutely right.

 
Jeanne Boyarsky
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Bert Bates wrote:Our neighbors say, and there is some truth to their logic, that all of the neighborhood's wells are, to a degree, connected. It's almost certainly true that we share parts of the same watershed, but my non-trivial amount of research indicates that I'm not going to adversely affect my direct neighborhood's water table.

Where I live the water comes from pipes (and eventually the reservoir), so this may be an obvious question to a more rural person. But when you water the grass, what happens to the water? I would think that some evaporates, some stays with the grass and the rest seeps back into the group and eventually the water table/well. If this is true, does a lot of it go back? In other words, are you using the same water repeated?
 
paul wheaton
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Every time you water, you wash away some of the organic matter and the nutrients - slowly converting your soil into cement-like dirt. Instead of expensive irrigation and fertilizer, consider having more top soil, more tap rooted plants/trees, retaining water in ponds (that will later add to the morning dew) and more trees, more trees, more trees.

If you use a rotational grazing system, it is generally recognized that you will have five times more growies.

People freak out about the water consumed by people/animals/manufacturing/whatever. But keep in mind that the water isn't leaving the planet - it's still here.

Considering your questions, I strongly suggest you spend some time at the permaculture forums.

 
Darya Akbari
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Bert,

maybe following these links will give you some more inspiration on your water dilemma and a new thinking about water: 'Space clown' hosts global show and more importantly One Drop

Two years ago I wrote on the One drop initiative of the Cirque du Soleil founder who is now the clown in space just for drawing attention to global water shortages.

Enjoy
 
Tanmoy Dhara
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But when you water the grass, what happens to the water? I would think that some evaporates, some stays with the grass and the rest seeps back into the group and eventually the water table/well. If this is true, does a lot of it go back? In other words, are you using the same water repeated?


@ Jeanne,
I live in India.Some days ago, a survey conducted by govt. revealed that the water level is plummeting rapidly because of extravagant use of water for irrigation.So, i don't think it happens like that.

Anyway, i use water coming through pipe, and pay tax on it.So i don't bother what the neighbors say. But Bert's problem is different .It reminds me of the Gulf War where Iraq-Kuwait war started because Iraq was overusing the oil going beyond their "quota" as they pump it out from same oil basin(but in different territories).
Given the situation like that, Bert, you may reduce the consumption rate ,just a tad..and try to convince your neighbors about your need.

Like they said in the good old bible - Love thy neighbor.
 
Jeanne Boyarsky
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Tanmoy Dhara wrote: @ Jeanne,
I live in India.Some days ago, a survey conducted by govt. revealed that the water level is plummeting rapidly because of extravagant use of water for irrigation.So, i don't think it happens like that.

That's my question. I know if you use too much water on the lawn, it wastes more because more evaporates/drains. I'm wondering if that's true if one doesn't use an extravagant use of water and just the bare minimum the grass needs.

[edited to fix code tag]
 
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