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5: Food and Water

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    Water is an essential element in growing the food we eat. Also, the growing of our food has an effect on Earth's water resources as agricultural runoff contributes to pollution and diversions for irrigation affect streamflow and deplete aquifers. In this module, we'll look at how water is a critical element in the production of food. We'll also explore some of the impacts that our food systems have on both the quality and quantity of our water resources.

    Plants can't grow without water and in this module, we explore how plants use water and where that water comes from. Have you ever considered that fact that you eat a lot of water? All of the food you eat required water to grow, process, and transport. How much water did it take to make grow feed for the cattle that ultimately became the hamburger you had for lunch this week? Or to feed the chicken that laid the egg for your breakfast? Or to grow the coffee beans for your morning latte? Water is an essential component of our food system!


    • Analyze the relationships between climate, availability of water resources, irrigation, and agricultural food production.
    • Examine their water footprints and the virtual water embedded in agricultural food products.
    • Summarize the major impacts of agriculture on both the quality and quantity of water resources.

    Learning Objectives

    After completing this module, students will be able to:

    • Explain the relationships between evapotranspiration (ET), climate, and crop consumptive use.
    • Describe the major impacts of agricultural diversions on the Colorado River.
    • Relate the spatial distribution of precipitation and ET rates to where food can be grown with and without irrigation.
    • Relate nutrient loading from fertilizer use to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.
    • Attribute major water pollutants to appropriate agricultural sources.
    • Estimate their water consumption in the food you eat using the concepts of virtual water and water footprints.



    Module 4 Roadmap

    Detailed instructions for completing assessments are provided with each module.

    Module 4 Roadmap
    Action Assignment Location
    To Read
    1. Materials on the course website.
    2. EPA Fact Sheet on Agricultural Runoff: Protecting Water Quality from Agricultural Runoff
    1. You are on the course website now.
    2. Online: Protecting Water Quality from Agricultural Runoff
    To Do
    1. Formative Assessment: Turning Water into Food
    2. Summative Assessment: Kansas Farm Case Study
    3. Participate in the Discussion
    4. Take Module Quiz
    1. In course content: Formative Assessment; then take the formative quiz in Canvas
    2. In course content: Summative Assessment; then take the summative quiz in Canvas
    3. In Canvas
    4. In Canvas


    If you prefer to use email:

    If you have any questions, please send them through Canvas e-mail. We will check daily to respond. If your question is one that is relevant to the entire class, we may respond to the entire class rather than individually.

    If you prefer to use the discussion forums:

    If you have any questions, please post them to the discussion forum in Canvas. We will check that discussion forum daily to respond. While you are there, feel free to post your own responses if you, too, are able to help out a classmate.

    This page titled 5: Food and Water is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Heather Karsten & Steven Vanek (John A. Dutton: e-Education Institute) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.