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By Laura Stec

Drought Wars Meets Watka

Uploaded: Jan 22, 2014

It's official ? California is in a drought. According to National Geographic, the average American lifestyle is kept afloat by about 2,000 gallons of water a day?twice the global average. I asked around for ways to help. My friend Wendee reminded us to "let it mellow if it's yellow, and try showering with a friend."

OK?I guess that covers the bathroom. But what about the kitchen? 80% of all California water is used in agriculture. What can we do there?

I asked Drew Harwell, edible garden manager, consultant and our own homeboy who teaches at Common Ground (Palo Alto organic garden store). Harwell, whose background is in biointensive gardening and permaculture, said one of the best things home gardeners should do is prepare their soil.

"A well prepared soil can hold an increased amount of moisture and reduce the amount of water you need to grown your food. First, I double dig the soil and add lots of organic matter/compost. After planting, I follow up with a few days of good watering, creating even moisture thru out the soil. Once seedlings are established, mulch (top the soil) with straw."

Drew says slicing tomatoes and summer squash are good crops for dry seasons (both prefer drip irrigation on top of the soil and under the mulch). Consider native edibles as well, such as huckleberries, mulberries and salal berries. Not so good to plant this year? The ever-so-thirsty sweet corn and celery may not be best.

Inside the kitchen, look to your plate for more ways to reduce water consumption. Consider bumping up the veggies and eating less animal products. According to National Geographic, it takes:

- 88 gallons of water for one serving (3 ounces) of chicken. The average American eats 7 servings per week.

- 338 gallons of water for one serving (3 ounces) of beef. The average American eats 7 servings per week.

Drinking matters too. Since it takes 880 gallons of water to make 1 gallon (16 cups) of milk, try something different. Get your drinking water to go a little further by making watka! Here's my twist on an old favorite:

Hotka Watka Soda
Slice ½ a Serrano pepper thinly and muddle in the bottom of your glass. Add ice, one shot vodka, and fill with soda water. Garnish with lime.

Want more info?
Drew Harwell teaches a 5-part edible garden series starting Feb 1st at Common Ground. He'll address all the techniques described above, including drip irrigation.

Determine and reduce your water usage with National Geographic's Water Footprint Calculator.