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Water Use May Change Your Buying Habits for Fruits and Vegetables

Juicy fruits and fresh crisp vegetables are perfect foods for your body, but they might be using more water during the California drought than you want to support.

A UC Santa Barbara researcher has calculated the gallons of water it takes to grow and process fruits and vegetables, along with nuts and meats. It comes at a time when we are told to cut back significantly on the water we use at home .

“From the research I’ve done it is probably a bigger impact choosing what you eat rather than the other things they have done (at home) It might be an easier choice or an easier change for them to make,” said Ian Creelman, a UC Santa Barbara graduate researcher with the Bren School. “One of the problems with our food system is that people just don’t know the impacts of what they eat and those choices.”

Among the most efficient crops are tomatoes, potatoes, carrots and beets.

If you were going to chose between an orange and a peach,
“it only takes about 70 gallons of water to produce a pound of oranges whereas a peach takes 120 gallons of water to produce a pound of peaches.”

Nut production is among the highest when it comes to water use, and it often exceeds 1500 gallons.

Lettuce on the other hand, takes about 30 gallons.

At Goleta’s organic Fairview Gardens, water savings began years ago.

“We went to really water efficient irrigation back in the drought of the ’90’s and it was self evident. Why would we go back to anything else?” said Fairview Gardens Executive Director Mark Tollefson.

The drip irrigation lines have small water holes every eight inches to send the water directly to the seedlings coming up.

Crouching down and digging into the soil, Tollefson said, “the water comes out right next to the base of the plants that’s why it is so efficient and when you go down a little bit there’s a beautiful tilth in the soil that is holding the moisture very well. It hasn’t been watered in a couple days and there’s moisture below the surface.”

Statewide, research shows 80 percent of the water we use goes to agriculture.

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