You Are Your Watershed
A watershed is the area of land that captures, soaks up, and channels water towards increasingly large bodies of water. We think about watersheds as wetlands, streams, creeks, lakes, and rivers but they’re also forests, trees, soils, animals, and you.
You are 60% watershed – you’re a small pond capturing water from the environment – a small pond with legs. From this perspective, a 150-pound person walking hill is 90-pounds of water flowing against gravity.
Eating Beyond Our Watersheds
Each day, a few litres of watershed passes through your body via foods and liquids you consume – even bread is 40% water.
Much of our food is imported from distant watersheds – the banana I ate for breakfast, as an example, was 74% Ecuadorian water. In fact, in 2013, Ecuador smuggled 4.11 millions tonnes of water disguised as 5.55 million tonnes of bananas out of its local watersheds.
Here are some numbers that I managed to dig up:
Wheat – 12% water
Meat & Eggs – 75% water
Milk – 87% water
Fruits and Vegetables – 80 to 96% water
Honey – 18% water
Exporting food between watersheds has an ecological impact. Globally, patterns of trade could be seen as wholesale changes to weather and rainfall patterns – causing rivers to dry up. California, a state prone to droughts, exported over 378 billions litres of water to China for cattle feed. If you consider all of the food it exports, especially fruits and vegetables, one could argue that California’s main export is water.
Watershed As Foodshed
A foodshed is a geographical area in which food is produced and consumed. So here’s my question – since the food you consume is mostly water, might a watershed diet be a useful way to think about local a desired local foodsheds? How closely should your watershed and foodshed align? As a geological feature, it’s less arbitrary than political borders or imaginary circles drawn concentrically around your kitchen (see 100 Mile Diet).
In truth, I’m not entirely sure what a watershed diet might look like. I’m not even sure that I could tell you what my watershed produces – probably not a lot of bananas. What would a watershed meal look like?Could it even be done? How would it change seasonally? If anything, it brings up more questions.
If 60% of me is North Saskatchewan Watershed, how does that change my relationship to the North Saskatchewan River? To the wetlands, ponds, lakes, forests, and animals I share it with?
If food was produced low in the watershed (downstream) and consumed high in the watershed (upstream) would the height of the river increase? – essentially giving us more water to grow more food?