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An Apple a Day Keeps the Drought Away

The fruit industry used 2.6% of water extracted from the Murray-Darling Basin.

The fruit industry used 2.6% of water extracted from the Murray-Darling Basin.

By Geoff Russell

Think twice the next time you see fruit trees portrayed in media reports about diminishing water allocations in the Murray–Darling Basin.

Geoff Russell is a member of Animal Liberation and author of CSIRO Perfidy, in which he argues that The CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet is the most environmentally destructive diet on the planet. This article is a reworking of a piece originally published on bravenewclimate.com.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

I imagine that most people have seen eco-footprint figures about the number of litres of water needed to produce a kilogram of this or that food. Or figures about how much energy is consumed during the production of meat, coffee, chocolate or rice.

Yet some significant aspects of the environmental footprints of different foods are rarely considered. A recent University of Queensland study has connected the current problems in the Murray–Darling Basin with the production of large per capita quantities of animal products.

Placing that research in context will take some time. Let’s begin with a quick quiz.

How many news reports have you seen about the water shortages in the Murray–Darling Basin without fruit trees being the dominant image? And how many of the 13,700 billion litres of water extracted annually from the Murray–Darling Basin go to fruit trees?

According to a 2004 CSIRO report, the fruit industry used 2.6% of water extracted from the Basin. The vegetable industry is even smaller at just 1.3%. The four biggest water users were dairy (34%), cotton (24%), rice (16%) and beef (7%).

But there is always another report. The Guide to the Basin Plan has foreshadowed a reduction of about 4000 billion litres of water extracted from the Basin. While this has been greeted with outrage, it would only roll back water use to about 1995 levels...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.