Cape Town to Run Out of Water in 3 Months – Are Our Diets to Blame?

Cape Town to Run Out of Water - Are Our Diets to Blame? | Meat Your Future
Photo: Bone dry Gamka Dam in Beaufort West, South Africa, credit Esa Alexander/Sunday Times

Cape Town, South Africa, is set to be the first major city in the developed world to run out of water. An unusual drought and rapidly growing metropolitan population both play a part in this unprecedented event.

But while the city is encouraging residents to take short showers and flush toilets once a day, we have seen no official statement from the city on the more substantial water footprint of dietary choices.

Saving water by any measure is beneficial and welcome. But, the *largest* determinant of our overall water footprint happens to be what we decide to eat.

According to the Twente Water Centre in the Netherlands: “Recent research has shown that about 27% of the water footprint of humanity is related to the production of animal products…. Only 4% of the water footprint of humanity relates to water use at home. This means that if people consider reducing their water footprint, they should look critically at their diet rather than at their water use in the kitchen, bathroom, and garden.”

And the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) concluded there will only be enough water to feed the human population in 2050 if, globally, “the proportion of animal based foods is limited to 5 per cent of total calories”.

A global transition away from meat, dairy, eggs and other animal products, and towards plant-based vegan systems, is urgently needed to adequately address a number of looming crises – water security being a very important (and increasingly salient) one.

What will it take for us as a society to completely ditch animal foods?

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