There are many misleading or confusing reports about the amount of water that goes into growing a bushel of wheat or producing a kilogram of beef, for example. The simplistic math that is sometimes used to calculate water consumption ignores the reality that in crops, water falls as rain or snow before it evaporates or moves through the soils and is recirculated. It’s the same for livestock. It doesn’t make sense to say that animals drink water and then it’s lost forever. Animals retain only a very small fraction of the water they consume. Most of the water they drink is recycled back into the environment.
Some high-value and weather sensitive crops – usually fruits and vegetables – require irrigation. Today’s irrigation systems come in a variety of forms and are built to make sure every drop of water is used.
Water availability and quality are an important issue for all of us. In Canada only 8.5% of farms use any form of irrigation. The remaining 91.5% of farms rely solely on precipitation for crop watering. Irrigation is used on crops like berries, fruits and vegetables that are for direct human consumption.
Sometimes land used to grow crops is too wet, so farmers will drain it using underground tile to remove surplus water from fields. This improves crop quality and yield and reduces water runoff and soil erosion. In some provinces, farmers must apply for a government-issued permit to take water to ensure that they are using water resources properly and in an environmentally responsible way.
Did you know?
- A dairy cow drinks 80-160 litres of water, and produces about 27 litres of milk per day
- A mature sheep drinks between four and nine litres of water per day
- Canadians use up to 350 litres of water per day per person - the second highest rate in the world
- A five-minute shower with a standard shower head uses 100 litres of water
- A single load of laundry can use up to 225 litres of water