One of the ever-present considerations during this week is what to eat. This evening I took my usual Thursday evening trip over to my parent’s house for tea (dinner or supper, to any southerners reading) but couldn’t decide how to account for the fact that someone else was cooking for me. Fortunately my Dad had measured out the water he used to cook the peas and potatoes so I was able to mentally ‘deduct’ that from my daily allowance.
When planning my other meals, I am conscious not only of the amount of water a meal takes to prepare and cook, but also how much washing up I produce in the process. Consequently I am trying to cook meals which use a minimal number of dishes and pans, and am re-using plates, mugs and cutlery rather than getting clean items out of the cupboard each time.
I am fortunate to live in a culture where we have such a wide variety of foods available that it is possible to choose meals which are don’t require too much water to cook – e.g. fajitas, sausage and mash, noodles, sandwiches – but I imagine it would be a very different story if my staple diet was rice and pulses and fresh vegetables which take far more water to prepare. And I am already in the habit of using a steamer to cook most of my veg, which uses much less water than boiling them (and also retains much more of the goodness of the veg).
I am trying to avoid using processed or pre-prepared food. However, I’ve realised as the week has gone on that even ‘unprepared’ foods like fresh vegetables have already used a lot of water on their way from field to fridge for example, my potatoes are already clean, my cous cous processed, my bread baked. And this is before even considering the amount of water it took to grow the raw ingredients in the first place. In fact, while we only need to drink two to five litres of water each day to stay healthy, it takes between 2,000 to 5,000 litres of water to produce enough food per person, per day. Wow.
One person who will already understand the impact of this is Judith, 38, from Zimbabwe . She is not only a full-time mum, but also the breadwinner for the household. She relies on water to drink, wash with, and to grow the vegetables in her garden – an important source of income for her family. “I get so frustrated when I am standing in the water queue. I panic because I imagine my vegetables are getting destroyed by the sun. I think to myself: ‘how will we make money? What will we eat? How will I cope?’ The change in weather has affected all of Zimbabwe, particularly poor people like us. Less rain equals less food, equals hunger. It seems like our water problems just keep getting worse.”