The United States is one of the world's biggest users of water -- many Americans use as much water as approximately 900 Kenyans. As a result, water resources in the U.S. are shrinking. The country has faced five years of shortages; in 2012, the U.S. had the worst drought in 25 years.
Thirty-six states already expect water shortages this year, even without drought; and Northern California's unusually dry winter is raising concerns that the state will experience the worst drought in modern history.
The Natural Resources Defense Council expects water scarcity to be especially severe in the West and is predicting that six of the Bay Area's nine counties will face "extreme" water scarcity by 2050.
Without more efforts to reduce water waste and water consumption, the water rationing, stalled development projects, and idle fields seen in previous years could easily become business as usual.
Last year's drought drove up grain prices in the Corn Belt and plains, causing major losses for California's dairy industry and increasing demand for river and stream water for irrigation. This reduced hydroelectric output, forcing natural gas to pick up the slack and costing Californians more than $1 billion.
But consumers can profoundly reduce water consumption through their food choices. Recent research from the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition shows that a healthy diet and environmentally sustainable diet go hand in hand. Here are four steps to save water in the Bay Area:
Big Ag is less challenged by drought or price fluctuations than small and medium-scale farms, but changing support services could help even things out and improve food and water security.
Many Bay Area residents and other Americans are already rallying to conserve water. This World Water Day it's more important than ever that Americans keep working to save every drop.
Danielle Nierenberg is a food and agriculture expert and co-founder of Food Tank: The Food Think Tank based in Chicago. For more information, visit www.FoodTank.org.