Drought Wars Meets Watka | The Food Party! | Laura Stec | Palo Alto Online |

Local Blogs

The Food Party!

By Laura Stec

E-mail Laura Stec

About this blog: I've been attracted to food for good and bad reasons for many years. From eating disorder to east coast culinary school, food has been my passion, profession & nemesis. I've been a sugar addict, a 17-year vegetarian, a food and en...  (More)

View all posts from Laura Stec

Drought Wars Meets Watka

Uploaded: Jan 22, 2014
It's official ? California is in a drought. According to National Geographic, the average American lifestyle is kept afloat by about 2,000 gallons of water a day?twice the global average. I asked around for ways to help. My friend Wendee reminded us to "let it mellow if it's yellow, and try showering with a friend."

OK?I guess that covers the bathroom. But what about the kitchen? 80% of all California water is used in agriculture. What can we do there?

I asked Drew Harwell, edible garden manager, consultant and our own homeboy who teaches at Common Ground (Palo Alto organic garden store). Harwell, whose background is in biointensive gardening and permaculture, said one of the best things home gardeners should do is prepare their soil.

"A well prepared soil can hold an increased amount of moisture and reduce the amount of water you need to grown your food. First, I double dig the soil and add lots of organic matter/compost. After planting, I follow up with a few days of good watering, creating even moisture thru out the soil. Once seedlings are established, mulch (top the soil) with straw."

Drew says slicing tomatoes and summer squash are good crops for dry seasons (both prefer drip irrigation on top of the soil and under the mulch). Consider native edibles as well, such as huckleberries, mulberries and salal berries. Not so good to plant this year? The ever-so-thirsty sweet corn and celery may not be best.

Inside the kitchen, look to your plate for more ways to reduce water consumption. Consider bumping up the veggies and eating less animal products. According to National Geographic, it takes:

- 88 gallons of water for one serving (3 ounces) of chicken. The average American eats 7 servings per week.

- 338 gallons of water for one serving (3 ounces) of beef. The average American eats 7 servings per week.

Drinking matters too. Since it takes 880 gallons of water to make 1 gallon (16 cups) of milk, try something different. Get your drinking water to go a little further by making watka! Here's my twist on an old favorite:

Hotka Watka Soda
Slice ½ a Serrano pepper thinly and muddle in the bottom of your glass. Add ice, one shot vodka, and fill with soda water. Garnish with lime.

Want more info?
Drew Harwell teaches a 5-part edible garden series starting Feb 1st at Common Ground. He'll address all the techniques described above, including drip irrigation.

Determine and reduce your water usage with National Geographic's Water Footprint Calculator.

Local Journalism.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Aquamarine, a resident of another community,
on Jan 22, 2014 at 7:11 pm

How much water does it take to produce one liter of vodka?

Posted by Jay Park, a resident of Jackson Park,
on Jan 23, 2014 at 7:45 am

NPR reports 34.55 liters of water are needed to produce one liter of hard liquor.

Web Link

Note that the study in the aforementioned link was sponsored by the water industry, and does not take into account water requirements for packaging production.

Another report shows approximately 1020 liters of water to produce one liter of milk:

Web Link

Posted by Laura Stec, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jan 23, 2014 at 8:07 am

Laura Stec is a registered user.

Smarty pants! You guys don't miss a beat. Great research!

Posted by Jay Park, a resident of Jackson Park,
on Jan 23, 2014 at 9:33 am

Not to be a total downer, but the milk estimate makes cheese look even worse. I love cheese, but only indulge occasionally.

For one pound of cheese, you need ten pounds of cow or goat milk (or six pounds of sheep milk) according to this:

Web Link

One of the better things one can do for the environment is to moderate one's consumption of items from the dairy/beef industry, and to make sure the plate is emptied!

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto,
on Jan 23, 2014 at 1:58 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Jay Park - that's useful info to have, thank you. Does that also taken into account how much water goes into whatever fruits/veggies/grains comprise the liquor?

Will Laura now cut down on her drinking, given how much water goes into producing a bottle of hard liquor?

Should we all start buying non-local food so that we're not contributing to the drought? Or perhaps more non-local food items will appear at the stores, to make up for the lack and high prices created by the drought.

Posted by Jay Park, a resident of Jackson Park,
on Jan 23, 2014 at 4:22 pm

It appears the beverage water needs study covered water requirements for ingredients as well.

Most domestically-grown produce comes from California anyhow. If you stopped buying from the local farmers market, you'd mostly be hurting those farmers, but the produce would still come from a source that is suffering from the same drought.

My guess is that markets will increase the prices of some items, some markets will source imported produce (e.g., Mexico) to reduce costs. In some cases, it would not be an issue to source conventionally-grown imported produce; in other cases (e.g., Whole Foods), there would still be some effort to source locally-grown organic produce. It's really up to the grocery store's wholesale buyer.

Of course, buying imported food doesn't help the local economy and adds to fossil fuel consumption. It's really up to the individual to decide for oneself what it more important.

I'll let Laura answer the question about changing one's drinking habits due to the drought. :-)

Follow this blogger.
Sign up to be notified of new posts by this blogger.



Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed.

Get the day's top headlines from Palo Alto Online sent to your inbox in the Express newsletter.

Pacifica’s first brewery closes its doors
By The Peninsula Foodist | 2 comments | 2,128 views

Holiday Fun in San Francisco- Take the Walking Tour for An Evening of Sparkle!
By Laura Stec | 8 comments | 2,005 views

Premiere! “I Do I Don’t: How to build a better marriage” – Here, a page/weekday
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,575 views


Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund

For the last 30 years, the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund has given away almost $10 million to local nonprofits serving children and families. 100% of the funds go directly to local programs. It’s a great way to ensure your charitable donations are working at home.