On a much larger level if you are the farmer, how do you grow your crops? How does the city clean itself? How do you plant trees so that you can attract the rain? No water, no food. No water no electricity. No water no city. No water, no life.
Imagine the millions of people today in India that do not even have this one bucket or to have to stand in line at 4 a.m. to fill that one bucket. Imagine the farmers who are dependent on rain or groundwater and what suicidal thoughts must cross their minds daily. Imagine the politicians that have to have security cover because their states are fighting with other states for river water. Imagine the prayers that we all send up daily for rain.
In this context, why are we wasting huge amounts of water for producing things we do not need. For instance Al Kabeer the meat export firm near Hyderabad takes 16 million litres of water from the government reservoirs FREE everyday to wash its corpses of blood before sending them to the Arab countries. So do all the other slaughterhouses. Hyderabad has no water for its people or farmers. The leather industry is another water guzzler.
Now take the issue of milk. Let us look at the water used for milk production. Here is a report made last month by the IWMI-Tata Water Policy Research Programme about Gujarat and its famous dairy Amul experiment that has made the state the centre of the “White Revolution”.
Milk production is posing a serious threat to the future of farmers in water-starved North Gujarat. The dairy economy of the region has emerged as a groundwater guzzler, using up an estimated 2,500-3,000 litre of water to produce ONE litre of milk. Very high use of groundwater for milk production — water used as cattle drink and for growing fodder — is leading to rapid depletion of groundwater in Mehsana and Banaskantha districts.
Milk is 87.5% water. Cows drink about 40 litres a day and the more water they drink the more milk they produce. If the cows don't drink, they don't milk. The milk from Gujarat is not sold in Gujarat. It goes to Amul which, apart from sheer milk, makes butter, ice-cream, condensed milk etc and sells it all over the country. Researchers involved in the study, have calculated that dairy co-operatives in Mehsana and Banaskantha "exported 1.8 billion cubic metres of groundwater annually in the form of milk". The study says that this rate of groundwater depletion is not sustainable either for the people who live in Gujarat or for dairying itself.
Dairies use water in three ways — heads of cattle drink water, water is used to grow green fodder and to generate dry fodder. Growing green fodder is very water-intensive. It is not advisable in this region, Government action – to dig new ponds and tube-wells and to deepen old ones in Mehsana is absolutely the wrong one. In any case it yielded no result because of the lack of rainfall.
Central Ground Water Board officials agreed that the condition was "precarious and groundwater depletion was going on at a rate of two to three metres per year" and have suggested that the Narmada Canal be used for the dairying industry (which means that every time you drink milk you will share the responsibility for drowning 150 villages and the whole town of Harsud)
Everything we eat or drink needs water to either grow or create. You cannot tell by the size or texture of a food how much water was actually used to produce the food item. To “grow” that milk it takes water to grow the vegetation the cow eats, water for the cow to drink, water to bathe that cow, water to process that milk, water to wash the dairy barns, water to clean the cow dung, water to clean the baby when it is born. Water is also used to wash the cows and the equipment in their barns. Once the cows' milk leaves the dairy farm, it goes to a creamery, where water is used to process the milk and wash out the cartons or bottles. It all adds up.
Let’s look at comparisons of equally unnecessary food (made by the Water Education Foundation):
How much water does it take to make a single serving of these foods?
|Almonds||54 Litres (the trees are shallow rooted so they cannot craw from the ground and need to be watered|
|French Fries||27 Litres|
|One Hamburgrer||5850 Litres|
|One Lettuce||7 Litres|
|One Small Glass of Milk||293 Litres|
|One Egg||540 Litres|
|One Loaf of White Bread||675 Litres|
Gujarat or any other dairy cannot reduce the water they give to their milch animals. The dairy industry itself says “Limitation of water intake reduces animal performance quicker and more dramatically than any other deficiency. Water constitutes approximately 60 to 70% of an animal's live weight and consuming water is more important than consuming food. Animals that do not drink enough water may suffer stress or dehydration. Not all water must be provided as drinking water. Feeds that are high in moisture such as green chop, silage or pasture will provide part of the requirement, while feeds such as grain and hay offer very little moisture. Livestock may also increase water intake during hot months for its cooling effect.
This Table shows estimates of daily consumption of water.
|Tabel 1||Est. Litres. /Day|
|Cows, Dry & Bred||27 - 67|
|Cows, Nursing||49 - 81|
|Bulls||31 - 85|
|Growing Cattles||18 - 67|
||112 - 157
Free range cattle that need to travel in order to find forage or water have an even higher need of water about 225 litres. A dairy cow needs about 45 kilos of feed a day; grain, dry hay and green fodder. Think of the water needed to grow that.
One is the water that is fed or used to grow that milk. The second issue involving dairying is the pollution that comes from the waste water thrown out of the dairies which goes directly into the ground or into water bodies. The U.S. Water News has just brought out the startling fact that 90% of the harmful waste water pollution in the U.S. is directly attributable to dairy cattle. If the same researchers did an analysis of the ground water of those districts of Gujarat or India that specialise in dairies they would probably find the water used by everyone to have the following problems “All of the runoff contaminants, manure, commercial fertilizers, milk house wastes, pesticides, are defined as non-point-source pollutants because they enter watersheds through natural channels instead of pipes. This natural seepage makes control difficult and most of the dairies are located in close proximity to rivers and streams which means that the damage is far worse than just growing milk – you can get anything from salmonella to coli- form bacteria in your normal water if you are in Gujarat or any area that has dairies in it – or even if you live hundreds of miles away and your water comes from the same river.
Indian planners needs to make a decision: do we need milk (which cannot be digested by any Indian because of the missing lactase enzyme) or water? Do we need to export meat or drink water? Do we need to be the largest supplier of leather in the world or do we need our farmers to get water to produce food for us? Today, these are very urgent choices to be made by you by choosing what you buy, wear and eat.