Water, water everywhere, give me a drop to drink

Yesterday as I walked about in the heat with my hose making sure animals had water to stand in and cold water in their troughs I began to wonder about how much water I was  using. How much water is needed to run a sustainable, organic farmy.

So I did a little research.

Daisy (milking dairy cow) will consume between 30 and 40 gallons of water a day.  It takes 4 gallons of water to make 1 gallon of milk. She produces over 7 gallons a day.

Queenie  (beef heifer) will drink 15 – 20 gallons a day.  The steer will drink the same. It takes 3 gallons of water to produce one hamburger pattie. Though pound by pound chicken takes massively less water than beef. Hmm.  The chickens will drink about a pint each a day.

Mama (a lactating ewe) will drink 2-3 gallons a day and the other sheep at least 1 gallon.

.Why is there a lamb on my verandah again! She was given a bottle of water and sent back to her flock.

All our animals are on green grass so they need less water than a dry feedlot animal.  An animal on a dry diet on a hot day needs more. But already we are using a lot of water.

But how about this! It takes 518 gallons of water to make each tire for your car whether it is an electric car or not.  I am not even going to tell you how many gallons it takes to make a whole car, it is astronomical.

The pigs will drink 1/2 a gallon a day.  And my pigs will throw huge amounts of water about in play but we are not counting Water Play! 

It takes 1,800 gallons of water to grow enough cotton for your jeans. So wear them until they are worn out!

The plastic bottle containing your bottled water takes 1 1/2 gallons of water to make.  Thankfully you and I do not buy bottled water, we filter it ourselves. But how much water and oil was needed to make the filtering jug.  And the filter! Now don’t start me on oil.. back to water.

.A hive of bees will drink about a quart of water a day. By yesterday afternoon this dripping tap was heaving with bees. Cooling the hive was a priority for them yesterday.

But what about a pound of organic  lettuce? 23 gallons of water. This includes the growing and the processing.

It takes 3 gallons of water to produce one organic tomato!

2847 gallons for a pound of chocolate.. oh dear.. well I never much liked chocolate anyway. Though this figure seemed inflated so I checked it with three different sources. And it seems right.  The cocoa bean must be a thirsty plant.

Now for the kicker: 2, 100 gallons of water to produce one gallon of ethanol.  Though  around here corn is not irrigated. But many many corn and soy crops are irrigated across the country.

What about an apple? Or a head of brocolli.  Oh dear.

As I write this I have already turned the morning  sprinkler on in the vege garden.  So it waters before the sun comes up to evaporate most of it. Two gardens are watered each day. They are on a four day rotation to encourage deep roots.   But I have found estimates of 240 gallons – 600 gallons per hour using a sprinkler. We use well water. Good cold water from deep in the earth.

I guess I have some work to do as to conserving water on the farmy.

That is what happens when it is too hot to work outside. I get to depress myself with numbers. However  you know how I feel. The world wide water shortage problem is too big for me. So I shall work on my small solveable problems. By growing my own and working hard to use less water.  We can only do what we can do. That is a stupid sentence but it is true.

Still. It takes a lot of water to keep a cow.

Good morning. It was hot yesterday but there was a breeze and it only reached 100.  I discovered (now that we have discussed how much water I am wasting,) that if I weed in the  spray of the sprinkler I can work for longer and the weeds come out easier!!  Bad water girl!

I opened the barn for all the animals to come and go but they scorned the barn and stood under the trees instead.  Of course the sheep were allowed to go into their root cellar and were not seen all day. All except Minty of course.  So that was a lesson learned and the big barn doors are closed again to keep it cool in there for the baby animals.

Today is dawning dreadfully hot. Humid and still. It might rain. But then again it may not. So no holding our breaths!

Have a good day.


ps  A gallon equals = 3.78 litres.





68 Comments on “Water, water everywhere, give me a drop to drink

  1. Wow. I wonder how many gallons of water I use to wash wool. I try to re-use the rinse water on plants or to soak the next fleece, but it’s high I’m sure :-(.

    We are horribly hot here and the humidity is kicking in today.

    • The humidity is the killer i think.. I also use gallons of water each day to flush the milking machine and clean the buckets and pots. I think once we are aware of it we try to cut corners in other areas.. hopefully.. c

  2. Keep to the gallons – the litre conversion is even more frightening 🙂 I think us ‘townies’ waste even more water just because its much easier to access 😦 Turn on a tap and leave it running without any thought as to where it is coming from. I wish I had well water, our water is so full of chlorine and other chemicals you can smell it in the next room when the tap is opened. Laura

  3. Mind boggling. But then maybe you should subtract the water content of wee and sweat that go back into the earth or the atmosphere, ultimately to flow back or fall back as rain. I’m trying to make you feel better 🙂

    That lamb should be called Mischief!

    • You are right about Minty, she is such a sweet naughty thing, and yes there must be an equation about water re absorption as well as water waste, I wonder where we find those figures and what that is called c

    • Thank you Old Jules.. if i remember rightly you live in a very arid environment, you would not take water for granted like I often do.. c

  4. Wow – those are some eye-opening numbers. I’ve said before how it’s easy for me to take water for granted – in fact, to be constantly moaning about how much water there is here in Scotland! Even today, it is raining heavily. We are so fortunate and never have a drought, even when England are suffering we are always replete. If only there was a way to ship it around the world without using up more water than we’d be providing. Hm.

    • Well I for one am thrilled that Scotland is soaked, as long as someone has bubbling brooks and full rivers. In NZ the rivers are being sucked dry by horticulture and the dairy industry.. water is a concern.. c

  5. It’s a sobering thought in a dry climate isin’t it.
    These are some things we do to conserve water; like you we have long hot summers.
    When I plant trees I place a length of irrigation tubing (ag pipe) at an angle that extends to the plants roots. When you water in the hot weather it flows from the surface to the roots through all the small holes. For fruit trees I use three pipes at intervals around the tree.
    Planting fruit trees close to the margins of a swale also gives them a regular deep soaking when it rains. The vegetables are planted more deeply and exist on much less water…….drip irrigation and heavy mulching in summer. e.

    • These are excellent suggestions, I shall definitely adopt the pipe for the tree roots when i plant the next wave of fruit trees.. very good thank you.. c

  6. WOW!!! You have me thinking about how much water we use a day (on a not farmy) – I fell quite guilty right now as I love a nice deep bath every evening, let along anything else!
    🙂 Mandy

  7. Wow, great informative post! Awe that picture of Minty on the porch is a classic – I love it! Well the heat and humidity have reached us in Canada – 100+F yesterday and even hotter today!
    Have a great day Celi and stay cool….ish!

  8. Your comment about the bees and water reminds me of what my son did yesterday. I had filled a backyard birth bath, and there he was, dumping out the water. “Don’t do that!” I screeched. “It’s for the birds and butterflies.”

    “It’s a mosquito breeding grounds,” he said. (He is right.) “And have you ever seen a bird or butterfly there?”

    “No, but I saw a bee at the bird bath this morning.”

    End of story.

  9. Good morning! Amazing how much water it takes to do even the simplest things. I’ve thought about the obvious ones…brushing your teeth with the water on, washing dishes, watering the garden…but who would have thought that you need water to build a car? And that lettuce would need so much? Or even that a dairy cow would drink so much per day! Wow!

    I’m pretty sure Minty likes to be on the Veranda because she knows full well that YOU are her momma! 😉

    Have a lovely day and try to stay cool! ~ April

  10. How refreshing to go from the depressing newspaper to hearing about all the water it takes to do mundane tasks at home. Not wanting to feel depressed I am focusing on the photo of Minty on the porch being naughty. She seems to be capable of encouraging smiles, thank goodness…

  11. Great post, Celi, and quite the eye opener. I once saw something about water needs for growing a number of our crops but nothing about the animals and certainly not its requirements for manufacturing something like a car. Our Great Lakes become more and more valuable each day.
    Have a great day, Celi. Take the afternoon off!

  12. I never used to be so aware of how much water I used when I was in London…I just opened the tap and there it was. Now I like in such a hot dry place…it´s very important. Our water does come from way Up the Mountain but unfortunately the powers that be chlorinate it before it reaches us. So for drinking and cooking water we go right to the source a couple of times a week and water late at night and early evening. We have a pool too which kind of makes me feel a bit guilty….but apart from that i know we´re not wasteful so I allow myself the luxury!

  13. Hi ..returned from family gathering where in Vermont it poured for 3 solid days. So I tried to
    soak it in knowing that we have broken records for consecutive 100 degree days and fires
    rage here in colorado. CRAZY…from lush to parched. Out to the garden to see how
    things did with my dear neighbor taking care.
    I missed you and the farmy….

    • welcome home, pity you could not throw all your clothes out and pack a rain cloud in your suitcase!! c

    • i think i talk to myself too much, at least with the blog i get to talk to you!! morning carlotta! c

  14. Oh that little lambie! Cute visitor. Temps are lower under trees – we notice it here in the yard. No walls to block what breeze there is?
    Some feel water and water rights will be the next big issue. Great post that points out how much we use. (grass fed animals are healthier and happier. Now I know it’s a water conservation effort, too!)
    I feel crops like corn should never be used as fuel when so many are hungry – I don’t care if it is “green”. How arrogant: I’ll deprive someone of food source just so I can drive around. (Sigh, but like you say, you can only do what you can do.)
    Maybe it would help if people considered all the manufacturing costs of energy and water before buying a “new” trendy replacement – just because the one that’s there is “old” (but still serviceable).
    Heat must be getting to me. Will gaze at happy lambs and pig.
    Try to stay cool!

    • I agree, it seems crazy to drive the price of corn up just to fill semis up for their cross country marathons! I heard a while ago that every 6th row of corn goes to fuel! .06 as in Zero SIX percent of American corn is exported. Amazing isn’t it. This who feed the world cry is dubious advertising.. c

  15. i had no idea about any of this. i am an ashamed consumer! i’m moving to scotland. i want to live where it rains and is cool all the time! i got up at 4:00 am to beat the heat this morning an it was already 85 with the humidity in the high 60 percentile. ugh!

  16. How interesting – really brings home the point that water is such a necessary and precious resource, which maybe we tend to forget sometimes..

  17. There’s a good reason for my need to live by water! Phew what scary stats.

    Being on an island, water is especially precious. We do not take it for granted and do have to think about how we use it. In fact, one of our small lakes, a major water source is so filled with algae that the water cannot be used just now. The people who rely on that source now have to haul water for drinking.

    The planet can only take so much and we’ve been negligent.

  18. How interesting! I knew that farming, animals, and even my home organic garden all take “tons” of water…but I didn’t have any mathematical factoring to consider. I think we are aware, but often unsure of where to cut back…it’s a big concern, or should be, for us all. Although I live in a “city” environment, we are actually on a well that dates back to the Native Americans who lived here first, and the settling of the Missions–one of the 21 California Missions is in my city. We have excellent water and I think we sometimes treat it as limitless. Enjoyed this, Celi. Debra

  19. That’s a LOT of water to run a farmy, but I would bet we all use way more than we imagine. It’s so dry here right now, and I have used the hose to keep my potted plants and little garden alive and I thought I was being careful, but reading this I think I can do better.

  20. Good grief! I’ve read some of these figures before; others, you’ve enlightened me on. Aye-yiyi!
    Cows making milk must of necessity drink more than bulls and steers, no? I don’t think our horses ever drank that much, not that I measured. All of this is really eye-opening. Of course the hope is that our cars last many years. Still …lots of waste, and water needs to be recaptured and reused.

    On a somewhat random note, been listening to a program on NPR about the Colorado River delta, which runs dry close to the Mexican border – and Mexico has claim to some of that water. Been that way for years. Lots used up in Vegas and LA, where it is heinously wasted.

  21. That is depressing. Makes me realize how fortunate we are to have so much water at our disposal. Still, I try to use as little as possible. I will try harder. Thanks.

  22. We all love sharing your farmy life, and along with the fantastic photos (love the shot of the bees) we get to hear cute stories about TonTon, the cats, Minty, etc but underlying all this I recognise you are also posting from an awareness perspective, eg water consumption in this post and sustainability & reality in general, as the farmy’s micro-economy/environment reflects the issues of the macro that affect all of us. That’s what I like about the farmy, it’s deeper than the “lifestyle” images, recipes and so on you’d see if you take your posts at face value. I believe awareness is empowering; it’s lack of awareness & information which are depressing and also convenient for those in the world who rely on the deficit so they have free range for short term monetary gain at the expense of long term environmental integrity.

    • I absolutely agree that awareness, wide awake ness is the answer. We may get it wrong but we will know how to get it right next time! learning all the time is imperative. And thank you so so much for that super comment.. i do appreciate that.. c

  23. These are awe-inspiring calculations. Here the eco houses use their ‘grey water’ from the house to water their gardens. Even well water has to be replenished underground. I just hope that you get lots of free water from the sky.

  24. We were on severe water restrictions for years in Brisbane a little while ago because of an ongoing drought. Everyone was very water conscious, but then we had floods and our dam is full and it is not spoken about now, but things go in cycles and there will be drought again.
    It is scary to think how much water we use without thinking about it.
    I rarely use bottled water, I drink from the tap, but I am always surprised at how much bottled water Italians drink ( in our area anyway ) There are whole bottled water departments in the supermarkets. This is even more strange since there are running springs in most towns….what a waste!

  25. You are a “well” of information. Pun intended. We just come through the coldest, wettest, grayest, least amount of sunshine for the month of June. Still water is not to be taken lightly. We can survive several days without food, but not without water. V.

  26. It takes zero gallons of water to keep my back yard so brown. OK, seriously. It’s so dry here and I do water the garden. I sacrifice the rest of the yard for it. But most people want that green grass and are willing to pay for it. Of course they often water the sidewalks too!

    • that is the way to do it, choose what lives, there are whole borders of flower garden that have to fend for themselves here and we get way more rain than you.. i would rather water a tomato plant than grass anyday! c

  27. I like the lambie on the verandah. Full grown might not be so cute up there…
    Interesting about the bees water intake, had no idea! Actually, I wasn’t aware of all the water needs on a farm. Thanks for teaching us.

  28. Sad but true – if something is free or priced cheaply then people do not attribute much value to it. Fresh air and clean water – two ingredients necessary for life to continue. Diamonds and yachts?
    An upside down world in which we live, eh?
    I’m curious about gray water usage on an organic farm, Celi. Are there any opportunities there or would it become a health risk? I’m thinking back to the incident a year or 2 ago where organic lettuce from California became contaminated from tainted water. I use dish water (& have used collected shower water) to irrigate my flower beds, but I’ve resisted using it on the edibles. I’m careful about the soaps we use, but still…??

  29. Thank you for writing about water, Celi. Many people do not know how much water it takes to make various things or to run a sustainable farm. Now we all know (if we are paying attention). Re: gray water: if you use it wherever you can (we flush toilets with used bathwater here), then you don’t have to use fresh water. I know you collect rainwater, too, on the farm.

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