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What’s the beef with water?

Don’t have a cow man. Improve your wellness by reducing your water footprint.

Footprints can be seen in lots of places — in the sand, in the snow, even in our water.

Wait, in our water?

That’s right, though it’s not exactly what you think. A water footprint is like an environmental or ecological footprint. A water footprint accounts for the water used in the agricultural, packaging and shipping processes used to produce the food you consume.

And since our employees at Denver Water eat, drink and breathe water (okay, probably just drink, but you get the point) it’s only natural that water footprints would be a focus in our wellness program.

Denver Water’s employee wellness program includes voluntary challenges throughout the year, each one typically lasting three weeks. The challenges have goals such as ditching fast food, drinking more water and getting more exercise.

Jessica Brody, general counsel for Denver Water, has been a vegetarian since childhood. Not only do vegetables contribute to a healthy lifestyle, they have a relatively small water footprint. Photo credit: Denver Water.

This month, employees are being challenged to try a plant-based diet. It’s a diet that emphasizes minimally processed foods from plants and includes healthy proteins like nuts, seeds, beans and tofu. It also allows for modest amounts of animal products like fish, lean meat and low-fat dairy.

Limiting the consumption of animal products has many positive health impacts like lowering cholesterol and blood pressure and helping to prevent chronic diseases.

But here’s where the water footprint comes in. Do you know what food has the largest global water footprint? Beef.

It takes approximately 1,847 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef — that’s enough water to fill 39 bathtubs all the way to the top.

For only one pound of beef? How can that be possible?

A beef cow eats thousands of pounds of grass, corn, grains and soybeans during her lifetime, and water is necessary to grow this diet. That’s why the production of animal products like meat, dairy and eggs requires more water than producing fruits (115 gallons of water per pound) and vegetables (39 gallons of water per pound).

So, when we ask our employees to make healthier choices when eating, we not only contribute to our employees’ overall wellness, but we help reduce the global footprint of water. And since we’re a water utility dedicated to water conservation and efficiency, that’s what we call a win-win situation.

Do you know how much water goes into producing your foods? Because of the water needed to sustain and feed animals over time before slaughter and the processing and packaging of these food products, animal products like beef, pork, and chickens have a larger water footprint than fruits and vegetables. Image credit: Denver Water.

If you’d like to join our employees this month in improving your health and decreasing your global water footprint, here are a few tips:

  • Avoid wasting food.
  • Reduce the amount of processed foods in your diet.
  • Limit the amount of animal products you eat and give a plant-based meal a try.
  • Choose pasture-raised animal products when you can.

Of course, this isn’t for everyone, and eating a burger or steak doesn’t mean you’re wasting water.

But if you want to reduce your global water footprint with the foods you eat, try reducing your beef intake for a while. You might find it to be a mooooo-ving experience!

And if you want to decrease your water footprint here in Colorado, there are plenty of other things you can do to use water efficiently.