water is being used much faster than it is being replenished every year the

Water is being used much faster than it is being

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water is being used much faster than it is being replenished; every year the water has to be extracted at deeper levels. For instance, over more than half the land area of the United States, over a quarter of This content downloaded from 130.113.111.210 on Wed, 11 Nov 2015 01:37:05 UTC All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
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ETHICS & THE ENVIRONMENT, 16(2) 2011 70 the groundwater withdrawn is not replenished and around Beijing in China the water table is falling by 2 m[eters] a year as groundwater is pumped out. (188) According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), “The world is moving towards increasing problems of freshwater shortage, scarcity and depletion…” (Steinfeld et al. 2006, xxii). By the year 2025, the FAO estimates that 64% of the world’s population may live in “water-stressed” basins (Ibid.). 9 And by 2050 the number of indi- viduals living in severely stressed water basins is projected to rise from 1.5 billion to 3 to 5 billion (Houghton 2009, 193). While it is certainly true that the rapid growth of the human population is behind many of these figures, how freshwater is used has as much or more to do with this crisis than just how many people use it. What many often neglect is the key role that agriculture, and livestock in particular, play in both the depletion and degradation of freshwater supplies. “Domestic” use of water accounts for only 10% of freshwater con- sumption while agriculture accounts for 66–70% of global freshwater usage, making it the single largest user of freshwater. 10 Hidden in this percentage of water used for agriculture is the amount dedicated to live- stock production, which currently accounts for more than eight percent of global water use (Steinfeld et al. 2006, xxii). For instance, according to a study by the National Geographic (2010), it takes 1,799 gallons of water to create one pound (0.5 kg) of beef, 576 gallons for one pound of pork, 468 gallons for one pound of chicken, and 216 gallons for one pound of soy beans. Overall, it is estimated that producing one kilogram of animal protein requires 100 times more water than producing one kilogram of grain protein (Pimentel and Pimentel 2003, 662s). The negative implications of livestock production are not limited to the grossly inefficient use of increasingly scarce freshwater. Livestock pro- duction also has far-reaching impacts on both the replenishment and qual- ity of freshwater stocks. 11 In the United States, livestock produce ten times more waste than the human population (Singer 2002 [1975], 168) but, unlike human waste, which must be cleaned in waste treatment facilities, livestock effluent is collected in vast lagoons that often leak into aquifers and waterways. As Schlosser and Wilson vividly describe it, “Each steer deposits about 50 pounds of urine and manure every day. Unlike human waste, this stuff isn’t sent to a treatment plant. It’s dumped into pits—gi- gantic pools of pee and poop that the industry calls lagoons. Slaughter- This content downloaded from 130.113.111.210 on Wed, 11 Nov 2015 01:37:05 UTC All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
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BRIAN G. HENNING
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