Events & Media

August 26, 2014

Drought and Food Choices
Ian Creelman (MESM 2015) discusses drought and food choices TV and radio

Ian Creelman

Second-year master's student Ian Creelman took to the airwaves twice in the past week, being interviewed about the relationship between the foods we eat and the water required to grow them.

Creelman appeared last week (Aug. 20) on local station KEYT (KEY3 News) and was also interviewed by Lance Orozco of public radio station KCLU about the same subject. The interview aired today

In providing Orozco with the water-use breakdown for several crops, Creelman noted that while it takes 250 gallons of water to grow a pound of rice, the same amount of potatoes requires only 40 gallons. Avocados are big users, while strawberries, as well as most fruits and vegetables are relatively efficient.

Meanwhile, a pound of almonds, the thirstiest crop of all, requires almost 2000 gallons of water to produce a pound of the nuts, which breaks down to about 5 gallons for each individual almond.

Creelman notes that the numbers are national averages and vary significantly from one location to another. Still, the comparisons are informative food for thought when it comes to choosing what to eat in the midst of the worst drought in California's recorded history.

Creelman conducted research on the subject for a course he took as part of the Bren School Strategic Environmental Communication & Media that was taught by Lance Orozco. (The Bren School uses professional experts in various fields to teach highly focused and specialized courses in a way that best reflects current real-world practices.) For a paper in the class, Creelman wrote about how our food choices can have a more significant effect on water use than some more common water-conservation practices, such as flushing the toilet less frequently, taking shorter showers, installing water-saving plumbing fixtures, and letting lawns dry out.

As the KCLU news director, Orozco is always on the lookout for a story. He liked Creelman's class paper and suggested doing a story about it. He also shared the story idea with a friend at KEY3 News, and both stories ended up getting air time. It ran on KEY3 News last week.

Most importantly, it provides another example of how Bren School students have an impact on the community even while they are in school simply doing their assignments. In this case, viewers and listeners gained new information about water conservation -- and a new tool for saving water -- that had almost certainly not occurred to them previously.

Listen to the KCLU interview.