Reviewing the statistics: Water Waste in California

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Amy Garber of Hazel  Technologies shares personal experience and staggering statistics involving water cost in produce production in the United States. 

Just prior to my relocation to Chicago last August, I survived a water crisis in my hometown, Toledo, Ohio.  In August 2014, the City of Toledo issued a “Do Not Drink” advisory for residents in Toledo’s water district.  At that time, unsafe levels of an algal toxin named Microcystin were detected in Toledo’s tap water, which is drawn from Lake Erie.  The advisory left nearly 500,000 people without safe drinking water.  Clean water immediately transformed from a low cost public utility to a commodity in limited supply.  Grocery stores sold out of bottled water.  In response, some opportunistic Toledo residents sold their extra at a premium.  Toledo’s 2014 crisis commoditized water, and gave Toledo’s residents some insight into the resource’s true value.

California is currently going through its own water crisis in the form of a severe drought, which has spanned over the course of four years.  The drought’s effects have been exacerbated by the heavy water consumption of California’s agricultural sector.  California’s farm economy uses 80% of the state’s supply of fresh water, while only contributing to 2% of California’s gross domestic product.

 It should be no surprise that farming is a resource intensive endeavor, and that irrigation is the name of the game.  Despite its arid climate, California’s irrigation infrastructure—along with the historically cheap price of water—has allowed California to produce roughly half of all fruits, nuts, and vegetables consumed in the United States.  This agricultural produce comes at a cost, and it is not just the cost reflected in the prices we pay at the grocery store. 

An avocado like this requires 63 gallons of water to grow, enough water to survive
An avocado like this requires 63 gallons of water to grow, enough water to survive on without eating for 126 days

Each ingredient (natural or not) also leaves a “water footprint”—the direct and indirect amount of water used to produce the food on your plate.  For example, the water footprint of a banana is 29 gallons; it takes approximately 29 gallons of water to produce one banana.  Studies of other fruit reveal that 63 gallons of water are used to produce one large avocado (about 7 oz.), and it takes a whopping 200 gallons of water to produce just one mango.  This means that for every mango that is thrown out due to spoilage, 200 gallons of water are wasted.  

At Hazel TechSM our team understands the value and necessity of water, and we are committed to research and development in the area of agricultural sustainability.  By slowing down the ageing process of produce, Hazel TechSM can help every drop of irrigated water go just a little bit farther, raising the chances that the precious resource ends up in your tummy, rather than in the garbage.  |

About the Author

Amy Garber

Hazel Technologies CIPO

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