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The number 1 way to reduce water shortages

It's World Water Week where thousands of politicians will address the most pressing issues concerning water shortages. We dive into the main factor driving water waste.

Let’s talk about a little thing called water. We all need it. We all want it. And this week, water is the topic of discussion for leaders across the world.

Earlier this week saw the commencement of World Water Week, where over 2,000 politicians, scientists, and CEOs congregated in Stockholm, Sweden, for an annual convention intended to discuss the most urgent water-related issues.

As droughts ravage crops around the United States, like Carolina was to James Taylor, water is also in our minds.

Agriculture and food waste was a major focal point at the convention this year.

“More than one-fourth of all the water we use worldwide is taken to grow over one billion tons of food that nobody eats. That water, together with the billions of dollars spent to grow, ship, package and purchase the food, is sent down the drain,” said Torgny Holmgren, executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) in a statement. “Reducing the waste of food is the smartest and most direct route to relieve pressure on water and land resources. It’s an opportunity we cannot afford to overlook.”

Indeed, Americans throw away nearly 40 percent of their food—that’s almost half. While this uneaten food causes households to lose roughly $2,275 per year, according to Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), it also places immense strain on our agricultural resources. “Some 25 percent of freshwater used in this country, along with 4 percent of the oil, goes into producing food that is never eaten.”

Illuminating food (and water) waste

We hear about food waste all the time—there are documentaries that follow the underground subculture of dumpster diving, infographics, and books which outline and  discuss the problem.

But I think statistics such as the ones above illuminate the prevalence of food waste most strongly. When I read that we produce enough food to feed twice the world’s present population and still 1 billion people are malnourished, I am inspired to reduce food waste in my own life.

I cook and freeze produce I know I can’t eat right away. I eat leftovers from last night’s dinner for lunch the next day (which saves more money than you think, too). If I know I can’t eat something, I put it up for grabs for my housemates. These are simple, doable tips.

Learn how to run a less wasteful business here

Water, or the lack thereof, is a multifaceted issue. It’s intricately woven into conversations regarding climate change, poverty, and agricultural policy, and developing a tangible plan of action to ‘fix’ water concerns is a monumental task.

I’m thankful that Stockholm’s World Water Week exists. But ultimately, it won’t be scientists or policymakers that reduce food and water waste (although they will certainly help). It will be the minute, menial, thankless little actions we do—day in and day out—that will make the most profound impact.

Do you think water shortages will affect consumer habits? Please share in the comments below.

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