Saving water from the “gate to the plate” and the “crop to the cup” is an important sustainability factor for farmers and food and beverage producers worldwide. We’ve also seen in our 2017 and 2018 Food and Health Surveys that consumers desire to make environmentally sustainable food and beverage purchases. Several practices are undertaken by producers all along the food supply chain to conserve all our natural resources, including water. And responsibility doesn’t stop there: Consumers also can employ a few practices as to save water at home and keep the water-saving habits flowing.
Check out these three ways our food system is saving water:
1. It’s all in the crop
Farmers can often plant drought-tolerant crops, such as corn, beans, broccoli and cucumbers that can grow when limited amounts of water are available. In addition to crop selection, crop rotation—in which another type of crop is planted in between harvests to protect soil health—also helps conserve resources. The off-season crops are called cover crops. Cover-crop seeds, often grains or grasses, are planted in between the growing season of cash crops. These crops can help with water infiltration, increasing organic matter in the soil and reducing erosion.
2. Farming that holds water
Farmers also use laser levels to flatten their fields in order to make rainwater spread more equally. Laser leveling can prevent run-off and puddling. It’s a way of making sure water ends up where it’s most needed. Conservation tillage also helps soil hold water. This technique allows farmers to plant new crops without removing residue from the previous season’s crop. Because the soil isn’t tilled or plowed, it retains more water.
3. Off-the-farm water saving
Many food and beverage plants reuse process wastewater onsite while still maintaining safety and quality. The majority of wastewater in food production facilities is used in non-food contact contexts, such as irrigation of landscaping, truck washing, cooling towers and warehouse-floor washing. However, in some cases water can be reused in boilers, evaporators or chillers. Both food and beverage companies employ water-use monitoring systems (such as flow meters and leak detection systems) and can calculate their water-use ratio (the amount of water to produce a product versus the water contained in the final product) to see where the water is going in the plant and to minimize any waste.
Consumers can help save water resources in a few different impactful ways. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, these practices include not allowing water to run while brushing your teeth, taking showers instead of baths, only using your dishwasher when it is fully loaded, thawing foods in a refrigerator overnight instead of in water, and fixing any household leaks.