There is a hidden cost to that favorite burger you crave. A surprising amount of water is guzzled up as each one is made. Were you aware it takes about 528 gallons of water to make a single burger, as was determined by the Swedish Standards Institute?
Misusing water to make burgers and other goods cripples the global water supply. Only 0.3% of Earth’s water is usable and drinkable, and it needs to be shared amongst our population of approximately 8 billion. Climate change is one of the leading causes of water scarcity in our world.
Although a shortage of clean drinking water is the most immediate threat to human health, water scarcity can have far-reaching consequences. Climate change is already affecting water access for people globally by generating more severe droughts and floods. Increased temperatures have sent our Earth into overdrive and impact the water cycle by changing precipitation patterns. Altered precipitation patterns in the natural water cycle change when, where, and how much precipitation falls and leads to more intense weather events.
Due to this, water stress and water shortages increase through more catastrophic events like hurricanes, droughts, and heatwaves. Rising global temperatures cause water to evaporate in larger amounts, which generates higher levels of atmospheric water vapor and will lead to more frequent heavy and intense rains in the years ahead.
It’s predicted that for every degree of warming, the atmosphere can hold around 7% more moisture, as
published this year by the Climate Council stated. More moisture can infer that more rainfall will arise. More rainfall will lead to greater floods since larger quantities of water will fall than vegetation and soil can absorb. The excess water, also known as runoff, drains into waterways, collecting contaminants like pesticides, fertilizer, pet waste, oils, litter, and industrial waste along the way. Eventually, runoff will enter watersheds and pollute water, limiting access for humans and vital ecosystems.
Glaciers respond to both temperatures and precipitation, making them sensitive indicators of the impacts of climate change.
published by the World Economic Forum in May 2021 stated that glacier melt across the world has accelerated over the past two decades and that warmer temperatures in water cause glaciers around the world to melt at a quicker rate, which results in rising sea levels. Higher sea levels will magnify hazards posed by climate change.
Fortunately, as technology advances, we are finding more solutions to combat this crisis. One way we can fight climate change is through sustainable water management. Sustainable water management helps create resiliency within societies to adapt to these effects.
The University of Minnesota Duluth is doing its part to resist the water crisis by having a variety of stormwater features on campus that serve to clean, cool, and slow stormwater before it hits storm drains that lead to our local streams and Lake Superior. Examples of stormwater features at UMD are rain gardens, native plantings, and retention ponds. UMD continuously works to improve water quality in local waterways and watersheds by installing stormwater facilities; reducing paved surfaces on campus; and performing outreach with local governments, farms, and other entities to encourage stormwater best-management practices.
Help do your part to help future generations have access to water by decreasing the number of burgers you eat. Climate change is one of the leading causes of water scarcity in our world and is reflected in the increase of precipitation, rising temperatures, higher sea levels, and how it alters the natural water cycle.
Bringing attention to the water crisis is only a start. You can also make a difference by incorporating technology that manages and decreases your daily water usage. On a global scale, we need to increase water sustainability into infrastructure design, economic development, and policymaking like at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Making an effort to conserve water is the only way to make sure the future will be without a major water crisis.
Violet Forster is studying sustainability at the University of Minnesota Duluth.