Home' Target 100 : Water Contents Water efficiency on the land
2010 A major study is published
on the water life-cycle analysis of
the red meat industry in the south of
Australia. Amount of water used is
found to be between 130 and 540 L per
kilogram of meat.
2011 Average annual rainfall for
Australia for 2011 is 705 mm, only
2 mm off 2010’s 703 mm.
April 2012 The millennium
drought, also known as the 2000s
drought, is officially declared
finished. Since 2001 the government
provided $4.5 billion in exceptional
November 2012 The
Murray–Darling Basin Plan is signed
off by Tony Burke (Minister for
Sustainability, Environment, Water,
Population and Communities) and
passed in parliament later that month.
January 2013 Cyclone Oswald
causes flooding in Queensland and
New South Wales, alongside severe
storms and tornados. Many areas saw
new rainfall records set for the whole
Is WATER A RENEWABLE oR NoN-RENEWABLE REsoURCE?
The water cycle shows how rain recycles by running off into the sea, then
being evaporated to form clouds that will eventually lead to precipitation that
can fall on land. Within the cycle, water can be stored as ice, or underground
in a water table.
If groundwater is pumped up from a water table, or surface water is taken
from a lake, faster than it can be replaced by the natural water cycle, then its
use is considered non-renewable.
However, if rainwater can be collected and used before it evaporates, then
its use is considered renewable. The more rainwater can be used before it
evaporates, the smaller the impact on the water cycle.
There are three main areas to be considered when examining water usage in
the cattle and sheep industry:
n In the paddock: Australian cattle and sheep farmers are committed to
continually improving their on-farm water efficiency. They do this by taking
actions such as creating efficient watering points for livestock (for example,
designated troughs for animals to drink from) and maintaining healthy soils and
pastures to minimise run-off (and therefore loss of water) during rain.
Water used to raise Australian livestock is generally not diverted water,
meaning it primarily comes from dams and river systems rather than town water
supplies, and cannot be used for other purposes, such as human consumption.
n In the feedlot: Like farms, water use on cattle feedlots primarily relates to
water consumption by animals. However, water is also used for feed processing,
washing cattle and managing effluent. To reduce water use, the grain-fed
beef industry is investing in several initiatives – including reusing water, and
minimising water used when processing cattle feed.
n In processing: In beef and lamb processing plants, water is mostly used to
ensure food safety and hygiene during operations. The industry is making major
investments to improve water efficiency, including reusing and recycling water.
HoW MUCH WATER Is UsEd To pRodUCE BEEf ANd LAMB?
According to a 2009 University of New South Wales red meat production
‘life-cycle assessment’ (LCA), it takes between 130 and 540 L of water to
produce a kilogram of beef (see Article 2 in the Explain section – Measuring
the water footprint of agriculture from ‘paddock to plate’). This LCA measured
the use of diverted water (that is, water that could be used for other purposes,
such as human consumption), by the cattle and sheep industry, taking into
account drinking water for stock, growing feed (when irrigation is used),
cleaning and processing.
Occasionally, claims are made that
large volumes of water, up to 50,000 L,
are required to produce a kilogram of
beef. These claims arise from the use of
‘virtual’ water figures, which attribute
every drop of rain that falls on a cattle
or sheep property to the production of
beef and lamb, rather than taking into
consideration that most rainwater on a
property will end up in soils, groundwater
and natural waterways, whether cattle or
sheep are present or not.
Virtual water figures do not provide a
measure of environmental impact, and
do not give an accurate indication of the
amount of water that could have been
used for purposes other than producing
a kilogram of meat. For this reason, LCAs
provide a far more accurate measure of
the livestock industry’s water use.
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