Water for Agriculture - A Bottomless Barrel?
Water is life. We need it not only to quench our thirst but also for cooking, showering, and more. What many overlook is the sheer amount of water required in the production of plant-based and animal products.
Water Usage in Livestock Farming
A whopping 92% of the global "water footprint" of humanity is caused by agriculture. We consume significantly more water indirectly through our diet than directly. Meat production, in particular, contributes about 29% to this water footprint. After all, animals also need to be fed with agricultural products, which in turn require a large amount of water.
Of course, the production of different types of meat also requires varying amounts of water. For example, the production of one kilogram of chicken requires an average of 4,300 liters, one kilogram of pork requires 6,000 liters, and one kilogram of beef requires a whopping 15,415 liters of water.
In comparison, the production of one kilogram of crickets on our EntoSus farm consumes only about one liter of water! Edible insects not only provide valuable proteins and minerals but also require significantly less water compared to conventional meat products. This is very significant because our large water footprint already leads to numerous problems today.
Consequences of High Water Consumption
Not every use of water in agriculture necessarily poses a problem. A high proportion of the water absorbed by plants can be traced back to naturally occurring water (in the soil or rain). However, an increasingly large portion is extracted from groundwater or surface waters, which are then used to artificially irrigate crops. In this process, the water cannot return to its place of origin and is thus not reintegrated into the natural water cycle.
In Germany, artificial irrigation is used to a relatively small extent. However, we import large quantities of agricultural products from abroad, which conserves our water resources but places a burden on those of other countries. This can become a problem, especially in water-scarce countries, as they increasingly rely on artificial irrigation. A lowering of the groundwater level can be the result, which can disrupt the region's water balance.
The UN has recently warned in a new World Water Report about the devastating consequences of overusing groundwater. This overuse, mainly caused by excessive agricultural use, can lead to non-renewal of reserves or even subsidence of the land.
Additionally, the pollution of drinking water is a huge problem. The use of pesticides and large-scale soil fertilization in agriculture also contaminates water resources in Germany. This can have serious consequences for the affected ecosystems, such as the displacement of certain plant species.
So Why Eat Insects?
The production of insects as a food source cannot independently solve the problems in water supply caused by agriculture. However, a diet that includes more insects and less meat could contribute to reducing high water consumption. In addition to significantly lower water consumption, insects are also a good alternative to meat when it comes to addressing climate change. We have already described why high meat consumption has negative effects on the climate in a previous blog post; click here for the post.
Click here for the blog