Farming, Fracking and Power Plants: The Food/Water/Energy Connection

At today’s Brooklyn Food Conference,  Program Director Kyle Rabin is moderating a panel on the interrelated nature of food, water and energy systems, using farming, fracking and power plants as examples. We gathered these facts to share with attendees, but thought we should share them with Ecocentric readers who are not in the area or unable to attend. Also available for download (pdf).


Food, water and energy are interconnected in ways that you may have never recognized.  Here are some startling facts and ways to lessen your impact on the environment.

Fact: It takes 660 gallons of water to make a single hamburger.  By comparison, the average family of four directly uses 400 gallons of water in their home every day.
To Do: Shrink your water footprint by reducing overall meat consumption. Why not try a Meatless Monday to see how you do?  In general, if you eat lower on the food chain, you'll shrink your water and overall environmental footprint.
Get Informed:
GRACE's Water Footprint Calculator
Meatless Monday

Fact: Power plants are responsible for 41 percent of all freshwater withdrawals from U.S. waters – more than the amount withdrawn for irrigation or public drinking water.  The plants use the water to cool high-pressure steam that turns turbines, producing electricity.  Fish and other aquatic life are injured and killed when they get sucked into power plants' cooling systems.  In New York State, power plants withdraw up to 15 billion gallons per day and kill up to 17 billion fish every year. Plants within New York City alone can withdraw about 3.5 billion gallons per day and kill more than 3.5 billion fish per year.
To Do: The way electricity is generated today requires a lot of water, and has a real impact on aquatic life.  It’s just one more reason why conserving energy and making your home or workplace more energy efficient is a smart move: save energy, save money and save water (while protecting fish and other aquatic life).
Get Informed:
Citizens Campaign for the Environment
Ecocentric Power Plant Fish Kill series
Network for New Energy Choices

Fact: About 10 percent of U.S. energy consumption goes toward raising, distributing, processing, preparing and preserving the plant and animal matter used in the American food system.
To Do: As consumers, we can reduce spoiled and wasted food, which amounts to 25 to 30 percent of all food produced and eats up as much energy as contained in 350 million barrels of oil.  We can also eat less meat, which is more energy and water-intensive than vegetables, fruits and grains.
Get Informed:
American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

Fact: Fracking takes 4.5 million gallons of water to drill and fracture a typical deep shale gas well, and up to 1 million gallons of that hazardous water-sand-chemical mixture flows back up to the surface which, if mishandled, can pose a threat to nearby water resources.
To Do: While natural gas regulation is important at all levels of government, as individuals we can purchase solar water heaters and/or increase our energy efficiency at home, thus reducing demand for natural gas-powered heating and electricity.
Get Informed:
Pro Publica
Chefs for Marcellus
New Yorkers Against Fracking
Ecocentric Hydraulic Fracturing series

Fact: Energy and water are intertwined: It takes a lot of water to create energy, and it takes a lot of energy to treat and move water.
To Do: When you cut down on your water use, you're also cutting down on energy use, and vice-versa! Consider raising the temperature of your air conditioning on hot days and lowering the heat on cold days, even if it’s just by a few degrees; keeping showers shorter to use less hot water; and lowering “phantom” electricity use by plugging your gadgets into power strips that can be easily shut off when you're not using them.
Get Informed:
Energy Star
Water Sense

Stay up to date:
Sign up for e-alerts from Food & Water Watch, Citizens Campaign for the Environment and GRACE.

Additional resources:
Circle of Blue
Food & Water Watch
Union of Concerned Scientists
Waterkeeper Alliance