Letter: Water conservation efforts must confront wasteful animal agriculture

In this June 26, 2019, photo, alfalfa grows in Nephi, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

The Salt Lake Tribune recently ran an article providing its readers with information on how their personal habits and practices can promote the conservation of Utah’s precious water resources.

However, the article failed to address the single largest consumer of water in Utah: agriculture, and in particular, animal agriculture. More than 80% of the state’s water resources are diverted to agriculture in the form of irrigated crops. And the crop most frequently produced on irrigated land, by far, is hay or alfalfa.

In other words, the majority of Utah’s water is currently being used to grow a crop that humans don’t even eat. This is why scientists and engineers who have closely studied the water footprint of various food products uniformly agree that animal products are far more wasteful of water resources when compared to any plant-based food source, and that a societal shift towards veganism would save vast quantities of water. The Trib encouraged its readers to take shorter showers, noting that a year’s worth of shorter showers can save 1,800 gallons of water. But this same amount of water could be conserved merely by eating three fewer hamburgers. As long as we fail to even address or mention the single largest consumer of water, we will never meaningfully address the problem.

Jeremy Beckham, MPA, MPH, Executive Director, Utah Animal Rights Coalition

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