Fun Fact Friday: Food Related

Interesting:

  • One apple costs 33.2 gallons of water. Apple Juice costs 301.2 gallons per gallon of Apple Juice, and one glass cost 60 gallons of water.
  • One tomato costs 13.2 gallons.
  • One orange costs 13.2 gallons of water. One Glass of orange juice costs 45 gallons of water

Good News:

  • Organics is the fastest growing food segment, increasing 20% annually.
Bad News:
  • In 1970, the top five beef packers controlled about 25% of the market. Today, the top four control more than 80% of the market.
  • In 1970, there were thousands of slaughterhouses producing the majority of beef sold. Today there are only 13.
  • Prior to renaming itself an agribusiness company, Monsanto was a chemical company that produced, among other things DDT and Agent Orange.
  • In 1996 when Monsanto introduced round-up ready soybeans, the company controlled only 2% of the U.S. soybean market. Now, Over 90% of soybeans in the U.S. contain Monsanto’s patented gene.
  • In 1972, the FDA conducted 50,000 food safety inspections. In 2006, the FDA conducted only 9,164.
  • During the Bush administration, the head of the FDA, Lester M. Crawford Jr., was the former executive VP of the National Food Processors Association.
  • The average Chicken farmer (with two poultry houses) invests over $500,000 and makes only $18,000 a year.
  • Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas was an attorney at Monsanto from 1976to1979. After his appointment to the supreme court, Justice Thomas wrote the majority opinion in a case that helped Monsanto enforce its seed patents.
  • Approximately 32,000 hogs a day are killed in Smithfield Hog Processing Plant in Tar Heel, N.C, the largest slaughterhouse in the world.
  • The modern supermarket stocks, on average, 47,000 products, most of which are being produced by only a handful of food companies.
  • About 70% of processed foods have some genetically modified ingredients.
  • The SB63 Consumer Right to know measure, requiring all food derived from cloned animals to be labeled as such, passed the California state legislature before being vetoed in 2007 by Governor Schwarzenegger, who said that he couldn’t sign a bill that pre-empted federal law.
  • According to the American Diabetes Association, 1 in 3 Americans born after 2000 will contract early onset diabetes. Among minorities, the rate will be 1 in 2.

Water and Wine

This weekend, I went to Captain Vineyard to harvest Petite Sirah. Having never harvested wine I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  I was amazed to find Captain Vineyard is tucked into a residential hillside in Moraga, California. Captain Vineyard contains 3,500 lines that create the following wines:

  • Pinot Noir (600 vines)
  • Cabernet Sauvignon (200 vines)
  • Petite Sirah (1,500 vines)
  • Petite Verdot (650 vines)
  • Cabernet Franc (450 vines)
This boutique winery was like no other winery I have been to, being on a hillside and in Moraga, California numerous questions came to mind:
  1. What exactly is dry farming?
  2. How much water does the winery use?
  3. Where does the water come from?
  4. Did the drought impact a winery?
Captain Vineyard is a family business as well as a  green business,  Susan and Salah pride themselves on their unique approach to dry farming. After converting the steep hillside (backyard) into a terraced five acre vineyard, Susan returned to school at UC Davis to further understand Viticulture. She modeled the vineyard on the European hillside style, affording healthy stress and competition between vines. In 2005, the soil was ready for vines and approximately 3,000 vines were planted. The Moraga microclimate provided the ideal microclimate for grape-growing.  In 2007, 500 vines were added to include Cabernet Sauvignon.
What exactly is dry farming?
 
The vines do not benefit from irrigation. The struggle to survive puts stress on the vines and stress, if you ask some folks equals flavor, complexity and balance in wines. The first thing that happens when you stress a vine is the yield of that vine goes down. Fewer grapes are produced, so energy is concentrated on the remaining grapes.  This was extremely beneficial for Captain Vineyard because dry farming not only allowed them to turn their hillside into a vineyard, but the vines provided support for the entire project. Dry farming forces the vines to search for water, probing deeper and deeper into the soil so that they are prepared for drought.  To create this behavior, you must start by digging a hole next to the base of each vine. Whenever the plant begins to wilt, you dig into the hole next to the base of the plant and water the plant. Each time you water the plant you dig the hole deeper and deeper. This way the plant begins to search for future water deeper in the soil.
How much water does the winery use? 

With the use of Dry farming EBMUD praises Captain Vineyards for their smart water use. Traditional grape growers use as much as 20 gallons to make a single gallon of wine. The Captains implemented a spacing method called “5×3” meaning the vine rows are 5 feet apart, and plants are 3 feet apart minimizing water use. The vineyard also uses the drip irrigation and has trained their vines to use less water. Watering less frequently and for  a longer duration trains the root system to go more deeply into the soil, thus improving the water supply capability of the root system. Captain Vineyards saves up to 16,000 gallons of water per acre annually, using 67% less water compared to another vineyard of equal size. To give you a sense of the quantity of water consumed in 2009 the 2.5 acres of vines and only consumed 253,572 gallons. (the average person consumes 50 gallons a day)


Where does the water come from? 

Captain Vineyard is similar to other homes in their neighborhood and has a well that supplies most of their water. However, dry farming refers to the practice of relying only on natural annual rainfall. Therefore, the vineyard primarily relies on rain with very little irrigation.
Did the drought impact their harvest?

Globally the United States has the largest wine market, and California makes up about 90% of that wine market. In 2011, wine sales hit a new high of $32.5 billion for the United States. The recent drought had a limited impact on the quality of the grapes harvested this year. Drought means two things for a winery, quality of the harvest (higher Degrees Brix) increases but the quantity of harvest decreases. The increase in quality is due to the concentration of flavor and sugars within each grape and a reduction in pest/disease within the crop overall.  The Degrees Brix, is a scale that measures the sugar content of an aqueous solution. One degree Brix is 1 gram of sucrose in 100 grams of the solution, and it represents the strength of the solution as a percentage by weight (commonly used in wine, sugar, fruit juice, and honey). Typically in drought-stricken years wineries are known to produce less volume but the product has a higher value due to the high level of quality. This year was unique at the Captain Vineyards because the Degrees Brix was higher than last year’s average and the expected yield for this year was two tons larger than last year. Looks like dry farming and the consistent weather is working in their favor.

True cost ounce by ounce of water in 2012 (Bottled vs. Tap)

Ounce for ounce, water costs more than gasoline, even at today’s high gasoline prices; depending on the brand, it cost 250 to 10,000 times more than tap water. Globally the bottled water industry is now worth $46 billion. More than half of all Americans drink bottled water; about a third of the public consumes it regularly. Sales have tripled in the past ten years, to about $4 billion a year. This sales bonanza has been fueled by ubiquitous ads picturing towering mountains, pristine glaciers, and crystal-clear springs nestled in untouched forests yielding pure water. But is the marketing image of total purity accurate? Also, are rules for bottled water stricter than those for tap water?

Is there a health impact?

The bottled water industry promotes an image of purity, but in fact it is exactly the opposite. Bottled water has been seen to contain chemical contaminants (toxic byproducts of chlorination). According to the Earth Policy Institute, 86% of plastic water bottles in the United States end up in landfills, which has a long-term effect that could impact ground water.  The Environmental Working Group (EWG) conducted a study of 10 major bottled water brands. The laboratory test conducted by EWG at one of the countries leading water quality laboratories found that 10 popular brands of bottled water, purchased from grocery stores and other retailers in nine states and the District of Colombia, contained 38 chemical pollutants altogether. With an average of 8 contaminants in each brand, more than one-third of the chemicals found are not regulated in bottled water. The Achieves of Family Medicine, researchers compared bottled water with tap water from Cleveland and found that nearly a quarter of the samples of bottled water had significantly higher levels of bacteria. The NRDC reports, water stored in plastic bottles for ten weeks showed signs of phthalate-leaching. Phthalates block testosterone and other hormones.  One thing to keep in mind  phthalates in tap water are regulated, no such regulation at all for bottled water.

Where is all the Legislation?

In 2007, the State of California passed a law (SB 220) designed to reverse the dearth of basic public data about the quality of bottled water. The law mandates that water bottled after January 1, 2009 and sold in California must be labeled with both source and two ways for consumers to contract the company for the water quality report.  (96 bottled water companies present in California and only 34% complied with SB 220.

The State of California has legal limits for bottled water contaminants. However, unlike tap water, consumers are provided with test results every year of the source contaminants and purity. Bottled water industry is not required to disclose the results of any contaminant testing. Instead, the industry hides behind the claim that bottled water is held to the same safety standard as tap water. But keep in mind both bottled water and tap water suffer from the occasional contamination problem, but tap water is more stringently monitored and tightly regulated than bottled water. For example New, Your City tap water was tested 430,600 times during 2004 alone.

In 2008, more than 100 bottled water facilities were operating within California. Each of those facilities reports the amount of water extracted from groundwater sources to the state Department of Public Health.The Department of Public Health then relays the information to the State Water Board, who tabulates all water inventory of water rights for the state of California.  AB2275 was put in place in California to ensure that the state’s water is responsible allocated in ways that protect our environment, economy and quality of life.

The Food and Drug Administration oversees bottled water, and the U.S. EPA is in charge of tap water. The Safe Drinking Water Act empowers EPA to require water testing by certified laboratories and that violations be reported within a specific time frame. (Public water systems must also provide reports to customers about their water.) The FDA, on the other hand, regulates bottled water as food and cannot require certified lab testing or violation reporting. As a result, the FDA does not require bottled water companies to disclose to consumers where the water came from, how it has been treated or what contaminates it contents.

Economic Perspective:

The water bottle industry has grown to become a $10 billion (2010), doubling in growth over recent years. In 2004, Americans, on average, drank 24 gallons of bottled water, making it second only to carbonated soft drinks in popularity. Bottled water costs 10,000 times more than tap water, and 40% of bottled water comes straight from the tap. Some may say the appearance, odor, flavor, mouth, feel, and aftertaste impact their choice in which type of water they prefer to drink but what cost are they will pay. If you drank the 99-cent bottle today, then took the bottle home and continued to use it, you could refill it every day with tap water until July 3, 2017, before you’d spent 99 cents on the tap water.The NYT article “Bad to the Last Drop” provides a great perspective on the comparison of bottled and tap water.

However, bottled water is undeniably more fashionable and convenient than tap water. The practice of carrying a small bottle, pioneered by supermodels, has become a commonplace.

The ultimate price for water!

An interesting article was published in Cleveland Plain Dealer that described an interesting perspective on revenue generation of water fountains vs. bottled water. When the Cleveland Plain Dealer published an article about the disappearing water fountains halfway through the NBA season, the Cavaliers first said they were following advice from the NBA, that water fountains spread swine flu (the NBA never gave such guidance). The Plain Dealer pointed out that the removal was illegal — public buildings are required by building codes to have water fountains, the number based on capacity. Fans were so angry — once the paper pointed out that the fountains were gone; strange they hadn’t noticed — that the Cavaliers set up temporary water stations around the arena, so those who wanted a drink didn’t have to stand in line.
The Q then scrambled to re-install the fountains. By then, the Cavaliers alone had hosted 29 sold-out home games at the Q — almost 600,000 thirsty fans. If just 10 percent of those fans bought a $4 bottle of water they otherwise wouldn’t have, that’s nearly $10,000 in additional concession revenue, just for water, at each game.

Elimination of Bottled Water:

  1.  Grand Canyon eliminated the sale of bottled water inside the park within 30 days. John Wessel, regional director for the park service stated, ” Our parks should set the standard for resource protection and sustainability, I feel confident that the impact to park concession and partners have been given fair considerations and that this plan can be implemented with minimal impacts to the visiting public.”
  2.  Colleges Ban Bottled Water: The Association for the advancement of Belmont University, Oberlin College, Seattle University, University Ottawa, University Portland, University of Wisconsin- Stevens Ports, Upstate Medical University, Washington University in St. Louis have banned the sale of bottled water on there campuses. Schools on a similar track who have banned plastic bottled water from dining halls include: Gonzaga University, New York University, Stanford University, Stony Brook University, and University of Maryland. Schools where the students are campaigning to ban bottled water include: Brown University, Cornell University, Evergreen State College, Pennsylvania State University, and Vancouver Island University
  3. In April of last year Concord, Ma. banned the sale of Bottled Water, Making international headlines. However when the ban was intended to go into effect in January of 2012 voters at the annual town meeting rejected the proposal and instead proposed to educate citizens about bottled water’s environmental impact.
  4. Well in 2010 a ban on bottled water at all events held on city property was considered but never turned into law. However San Francisco has already done away with bottled water at city meetings.
  5. 19 US cities, 14 states, and 12 countries make an impact to steer away from bottled water.

What is the end game?
More than 2.6 billion people, or more than 40% of the worlds population, lack basic sanitation, and more than one billion people lack reliable access to safe drinking water. The World Health Organization estimates that 80% of all illnesses in the world is due to water-borne diseases, and that at any given time around half of the people in developing world are suffering from diseases associated with inadequate water sanitation (killing more than 5 million people annually).

If clean water could be provided to everyone on earth for an outlay of $1.7 Billion a year beyond current spending on water projects, according to the International Water Management Institute. Improving sanitation, which is just as important, would cost a further $9.3 billion per year. So I guess at the end of the day society needs to decide what we want for our future and legislation will assist in securing the well being of our resources.

Scarcity is Increasing Time to Check Out the Alternatives!

Recycled Water: employs the same principles as the hydrologic cycles but with vastly greater efficiency and results in a much more pure end product. There are multiple methods used to treat water so that it can be reused however each method has multiple phases. 
    • The first phases where the water is typically taken from the sewage or wastewater facility and solids are removed (naturally this occurs in rivers). 
    • Then the second phase is when microorganisms are added which eat smaller particles. Once the organisms consume material they will fall to the bottom leaving the cleaner water to rise to the surface. 
    • Phase three the water goes through a filtration process where the water percolates through layers of fine anthracite coal, sand and gravel (similar to underground seepage which occurs in aquifers). 
    • Phase four disinfectants and chlorine is added to kill germs. (Water is ready for industrial and commercial use)
  • Phase five microfiltratson process: the water is pressurized through pipes containing straw-like fibers with pores that are 5,000 times smaller than a pinhole
  • Phase six reverse osmosis:  water is pressurized at about 2000 pounds per square inch through tightly wound layers of membranes with pores that are 5 million times smaller than a pinhole. This eliminates virtually all impurities.
Examples of different efforts of water recycling:
  1. South Bay Water Recycling program, which distributes recycled wastewater to more than 400 customers in the San Jose area
  2. Irvine Ranch Water District’s ground-breaking dual water system, which supplies recycled water to commercial high rises for use in flushing toilets and urinals
  3. West Basin Municipal Water District that distributes recycled water to more than 210 customers
  4. Monterey County Water Recycling Projects, which provide recycled water for agricultural irrigation to help ease demands on an over-drafted groundwater aquifer
  5. Padre Dam Water Recycling Facility, which was expanded to recycle 2 million gallons/day for turf irrigation at parks, golf courses and other commercial and industrial facilities.
  6. In San Diego, 16 water agencies are collectively using over 32,300 acre-feet of recycled water annually to meet the region’s water supply demand
    • City of Carlsbad’s new recycled water treatment and distribution system that will deliver approximately 3,000 acre-feet per year of recycled water to customers located in that seaside community.
    • Otay Water District is constructing a distribution system to deliver an estimated 5,000 acre-feet per year of recycled water by 2030 purchased from the City of San Diego’s South Bay Water Recycling Plant.
  7. Orange County Water District and the Orange County Sanitation District came together to take highly treated wastewater previously discharged into the ocean and subjects it to further treatment, including microfiltration, reverse osmosis and ultraviolet disinfection. The purified water is pumped to spreading ponds near the Santa Ana River for percolation into the groundwater basin, with some injected along the coast as a barrier to seawater intrusion.
    • The Replenish system produces 70 million gallons per day or up to 25.5 billion gallons of water per year (enough to meet the needs of 500,000 people)

Is desalination really California’s the first line of defense against water scarcity???

Desalination exists within California as a small production source, producing between .002 to 0.600million gallons per day. These plants are used for industrial processes. In 2002, the California Legislature passed Assembly Bill 2717 (Directing the department of water resources to establish a desalination task force to make recommendations related to potential opportunities for the use of seawater and brackish water desalination. The desalination task force established that desalination could only contribute to less than 10% of California’s water supply needs. Nine years after Assembly Bill 2717 passed, private corporations and municipal water agencies have proposed new desalination plants. There currently are over twenty large-scale desalination plants proposed throughout California (ranging in capacity from .40 MGD to 80MGD). The technology that is projected within desalination plants is Reverse Osmosis; a little insight on the inefficiency of this technology is displayed in the cost breakdown below: 
Pros: 
  • Provides reliable drought-resistant water supply to California
  • Improve water quality  compared to existing sources
  • Lessen the demand on northern California’s water supply by developing a local alternative for Southern California. 
Cons:
  • Can add harmful chemicals and metals into the water it produces 
  • Intake waters could contain: Pharmaceuticals, algal toxins, and endocrine disruptors depending on water supply source
  • Desalination is extremely energy intensive, requiring 30% more energy than existing inter-basing supply system and the energy expense is 50% of the plants operating cost
  • Desalination also would indirectly cause more GHG emissions (greater dependence on fossil fuels) 
Desalination Project:
Desalination plants within California were indirectly withdrawn when coastal power plants once- through cooling methods ( seawater intakes and use the seawater for cooling from the power plant). In 2010, the California State Water Resource Control Board passed a policy to phase out the use of once-through cooling because of the impact on marine life. There were 20 desalination proposed to use open seawater intakes to withdraw water and ten of these will likely co-locate with existing power plants in order to share the intake pipes. Only 13 of those 20 projects are moving forward. 
Alternatives to Current and desalination water supply systems:
  1. Urban water conservation 
  2. Stormwater Capture/ reuse
  3. Water Recycling
  4. Groundwater Desalination requires less energy than seawater desalination because the water is less saline. 
  5. Greywater 

Water Quotes

  1. “For each ton of recycled paper you save 7000 gallons of water/ 17 trees/ 4200 Kilowatt-hours of energy/ 40 lbs of nitrogen emissions/ 3 cubic yards of landfill space.”
  2. “A person must consume 2.5 quarts of water per day from all sources (drinking, eating) to maintain health.” US EPA.
  3. “62,600 gallons of water are needed to produce one ton of steel.” US EPA.
  4. “The United States consumes water at twice the rate of other industrialized nations.” National Park Service.
  5. “75% of a living tree is water; 66% of human body is water; 75% of the human brain is water.” US EPA.
  6. “Americans flush 6.8 billion gallons of water down their toilets every day.” National Parks Service.
  7. “Alfalfa consumes almost 25% of California’s irrigation water, more water than any other crop in the state.” Natural Resource Defense Council.
  8. “The average 5-minute showers uses 15-25 gallons of water.” American Water Works Association.
  9. Preliminary estimates show that the total energy used to pump and treat water in California exceeds 15,00 GWH per year, or at least 6.5% of the total electricity used in the State per year.” California Department of Water Resources.
  10. “Leaks account for 12% of an average Californian’s daily water use.” The Pacific Institute.
  11. “Bottled water can cost 240-10,000 times more than tap water and may not be any more safe to drink. Around 25-35% of bottled water sold in the U.S. comes from a city or town’s tap water, sometimes further treated, sometimes note.” Natural Resources Defense Council.
  12. “It takes 39,090 gallons of water on average to manufacture a new car.” EPA
  13. “Agriculture accounts for 87% of all the freshwater consumed each year in the U.S.” Livestock Production: Energy Inputs and the Environment, by David Pimentel.
  14. “When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.”Benjamin Franklin.
  15. “Water sustains all.” Thales of Miletus, 600B.C