What’s the beef with water?

Don’t have a cow man. Improve your wellness by reducing your water footprint.

February 14, 2019 | By: Kristi Delynko

Footprints can be seen in lots of places — in the sand, in the snow, on the moon, even in our water.

Wait, in our water?

That’s right, though it’s not exactly what you think. A water footprint is like an environmental or ecological footprint. A water footprint accounts for the water used in the agricultural, packaging and shipping processes used to produce the food you consume.

And since our employees at Denver Water eat, drink and breathe water (okay, probably just drink, but you get the point) it’s only natural that water footprints would be a focus in our wellness program.

Denver Water’s employee wellness program includes voluntary challenges throughout the year, each one typically lasting three weeks. The challenges have goals such as ditching fast food, drinking more water and getting more exercise.

Jessica Brody, Denver Water general counsel
Jessica Brody, general counsel for Denver Water, has been a vegetarian since childhood. Not only do vegetables contribute to a healthy lifestyle, they have a relatively small water footprint. Photo credit: Denver Water.

This month, employees are being challenged to try a plant-based diet. It’s a diet that emphasizes minimally processed foods from plants and includes healthy proteins like nuts, seeds, beans and tofu. It also allows for modest amounts of animal products like fish, lean meat and low-fat dairy.

Limiting the consumption of animal products has many positive health impacts like lowering cholesterol and blood pressure and helping to prevent chronic diseases.

But here’s where the water footprint comes in. Do you know what food has the largest global water footprint? Beef.

It takes approximately 1,847 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef — that’s enough water to fill 39 bathtubs all the way to the top.

For only one pound of beef? How can that be possible?

A beef cow eats thousands of pounds of grass, corn, grains and soybeans during her lifetime, and water is necessary to grow this diet. That’s why the production of animal products like meat, dairy and eggs requires more water than producing fruits (115 gallons of water per pound) and vegetables (39 gallons of water per pound).

So, when we ask our employees to make healthier choices when eating, we not only contribute to our employees’ overall wellness, but we help reduce the global footprint of water. And since we’re a water utility dedicated to water conservation and efficiency, that’s what we call a win-win situation.

Food water footprint
Do you know how much water goes into producing your foods? Because of the water needed to sustain and feed animals over time before slaughter and the processing and packaging of these food products, animal products like beef, pork, and chickens have a larger water footprint than fruits and vegetables. Image credit: Denver Water.

If you’d like to join our employees this month in improving your health and decreasing your global water footprint, here are a few tips:

  • Avoid wasting food.
  • Reduce the amount of processed foods in your diet.
  • Limit the amount of animal products you eat and give a plant-based meal a try.
  • Choose pasture-raised animal products when you can.

Of course, this isn’t for everyone, and eating a burger or steak doesn’t mean you’re wasting water.

But if you want to reduce your global water footprint with the foods you eat, try reducing your beef intake for a while. You might find it to be a mooooo-ving experience!

And if you want to decrease your water footprint here in Colorado, there are plenty of other things you can do to use water efficiently.

4 thoughts on “What’s the beef with water?”

  1. Kristi, et. al.,
    Yes, it is interesting to study how much water it takes to produce a pound of food. I have seen many articles with interesting statistics regarding water usage by the typical Colorado resident. It is important for residents to conserve water, but it is far more important for farmers to do the same. Are you making the same effort to encourage farmers to conserve?
    It takes 5 to 25 million gallons of water, many times treated, drinkable water, to frack one well. how many wells have been fracked with Colorado water?
    I would like to see an article with recent figures of water usage comparing residential, agriculture, and the oil and gas industry, as well as efforts to conserve in the latter two.


    Robert Herald

  2. Plant based diets do not work well for many diabetics. This kind of propaganda can have dire unintentional consequences. Be careful what you encourage and publish.

  3. Suggestion : I receive a monthly report from Xcell Energy, via postal mail , ( could be email as well ) , that shows the average amount of utility ( could be gas or electric , or both , not sure ) I use in , in comparison to the most efficient of the nearest number of neighbors . As in ; either as “ worse “ as my efficient neighbors , “ as “ good “ , (or ‘equal to ) ‘ my efficient neighbors , OR “better “ as “ EXCELLENT “ as my efficient neighbors . This helps me to , conscientiously examine , especially if the report is “ worse “ to improve on my utility usage….
    Could the Denver Water Co. do a similar report for water consumption ? I think ALL of us NEED to be cognizant of water conservation, and this may help . { Xcell Emergy could give input as well } Thanks .

    1. This summer, Denver Water will begin emailing outdoor water use reports to every customer with an email address associated with their account. To ensure that you receive your outdoor water use report, login to Denver Water Online and add your email address under the Account Maintenance tab of the self-service portal. You can also call Customer Care at 303-893-2444 (7:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., Monday – Friday) and update your contact information to include an email address.

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