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Old 11-10-2019, 04:02 PM
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It takes THIS much water to make (insert product here)


I put this in IMHO because Iím not sure it has a direct answer.

I see posted, usually on Facebook how we should think before we eat (certain item)
Because it takes 40 gallons of water (making up number) to make a single pound of beef!

How significant are these numbers, assuming they are real?

Iím not questioning whether it actually takes that much water to make anything we grow, but at the same time does it really matter?

I mean, itís not like those 40 gallons disappeared from the planet. Just were turned into something non-water, and presumably will become water again at some point.

Is it fear mongering, or is this something to actually worry about.
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Old 11-10-2019, 04:15 PM
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Unfortunately people cannot resist creating messages that support their political beliefs rather than objectively stating facts.

Similar messages: 51% of carbon dioxide emissions come from eating meat. (So may different figures here, too!)
Asthma medication damages the environment: https://www.bbc.com/news/health-50215011

I don't think the latter message was intended to be political, but... wow.
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Old 11-10-2019, 05:02 PM
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It takes one gallon for this.
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Old 11-10-2019, 06:27 PM
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I think it does matter, at least to some extent. Especially in places where water is scares it is a question what to do with the fresh water we have. If it takes 10 gallons to grow a peach or 100 gallons to grow an almond giving people that information can help make a decision about if that's where they want their water going.

I remember a couple of years ago being "asked" to curtail my water usage by not washing my car or watering my law only two days per week and then discovering that farmers not only pay less for their water but use like 10x what all residential consumers were using. An easier way to accomplish this is having water not be subsidized for industrial and agricultural so that the price you pay is reflective of true costs but in the mean time knowing how water intensive some operations are can give you the knowledge to avoid them.

Of course the other end of that is that there are so many things that you are supposed to care about potatable water usage can't rank for everyone. I know a supposedly green distillery that uses solar power and composts all of their waste but then dumps 100,000 gallons of potable water per month rather that use dirty carbon energy to cool their facility.
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Old 11-11-2019, 01:03 AM
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It takes a jug of water to make a jug of ice-tea. Think about that the next time you're quaffing down a cool ice-tea!
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Old 11-11-2019, 09:14 AM
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It takes a jug of water to make a jug of ice-tea. Think about that the next time you're quaffing down a cool ice-tea!
I know you're trying to be funny, but come on. First you're ignoring the water used in growing the tea. Then there's the water used in cleaning the tea pot. Etc.
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Old 11-11-2019, 09:30 AM
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I've always wondered about rice. This article says that rice uses an average of 4-5,000 litres of water per kilo of grain produced. Think about that 4- 5,000 litres. The article goes on to mention SRI (System of Rice Intensification) that can save up to up to 1/3 of water needed for rice cultivation
Quote:
For a state like Andhra Pradesh this means a lot. The state cultivates rice in around 3.8 million ha consuming about 30 cubic km of water, annually. Adopting sri will save 10 cubic km of water, even by conservative estimates.
Again, think about that - cubic kilometres of water....

And this doesn't even touch on the water needed to rinse or cook the rice....
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Old 11-11-2019, 03:09 PM
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By this logic, nobody should ever have a baby. How much water will the kid use in a lifetime?
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Old 11-11-2019, 04:49 PM
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I guess it depends on how much water you have available locally. In Australia, there is not enough water to go around a lot of the time, so it's worth thinking about what's the best way to use what we have.
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Old 11-11-2019, 05:35 PM
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There are places that have plenty of water and places that have limited water. All my life I have lived in places where there are water issues, as in, my mother used to say that out here (this was southern California) we could not spend water like money.

So I do sometimes pay attention, for instance "it takes X amount of water to produce this t-shirt" but on the whole I'm pretty sure my carbon footprint is small compared to most Americans and I gotta have a couple of t-shirts.

But what I wonder is, who decided "Hey, let's put all this water through a conditioning process, where the result is clean, potable water. And then, let's put it in the toilets!"

I'm not saying I don't love the convenience of water with my indoor plumbing. But really, I'm not even sure I need this treated, potable water for my shower, let alone to shit in, particularly when there are hordes of people in the world who don't have clean water for drinking.
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Old 11-11-2019, 05:41 PM
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It depends on how abundant water is where the product is made, and it also depends what form the water is in, and hence what other uses it could be put to. If the water for your beef comes from grass, and the water in the grass comes from rain, and you can't do anything else with the rain, then maybe turning it into beef really is the most efficient way to use that water.
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Old 11-11-2019, 05:59 PM
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Almonds:

To grow one almond requires 1.1 gallons of water, and to grow a pound takes 1,900 gal.

As stated, the climate the crop is grown is where the potential issue lies. Here in CA, it is a primarily dry, warm climate, which suits almonds very well. And in recent years demand has been up, so land that supported other crops, like cotton, has been converted to almonds. More land for thirsty almond trees on an already over-taxed water system means there will be conflicts. Almond farmers are complaining they are not getting enough water.

I would tend to agree with them except for a couple things: 1) expansion of almonds in an already dry climate with water shortages is not a good investment - they assume someone will find them water because, well, because!, and 2) a large portion of the almond crop is exported and not turned into food for American taxpayers - so we end up funding their dam and water diversion projects while they profit. Public costs and private benefits.

So, yes, it is a good topic and it does matter.
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Old 11-11-2019, 06:06 PM
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Almonds:

To grow one almond requires 1.1 gallons of water, and to grow a pound takes 1,900 gal.
Does that mean that there are 1,727 almonds in a pound? The internet tells me there are 280 to 350 almonds per pound.
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Old 11-11-2019, 06:16 PM
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You know, we could solve this problem if we all started drinking our own piss.

Or other's piss. It's always nice to have options.
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Old 11-11-2019, 06:32 PM
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Originally Posted by snowthx View Post
Almonds:

To grow one almond requires 1.1 gallons of water, and to grow a pound takes 1,900 gal.
What if an almond orchard was replaced by trees that don't produce any crop (at least any directly useful to people)? What would the water consumption be then? Isn't a good part of the water consumption just necessary for a large plant, like a tree?
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Old 11-11-2019, 07:00 PM
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What if an almond orchard was replaced by trees that don't produce any crop (at least any directly useful to people)? What would the water consumption be then? Isn't a good part of the water consumption just necessary for a large plant, like a tree?
I don't think water consumption is the issue; it's about availability.

I think Procrustus' numbers per pound are right. However, the "one nut per gallon" statement is fairly common for almonds and other nuts.
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Old 11-11-2019, 07:12 PM
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One major aspect is that, in most case, water is not used up in these processes. Sure, you used that much water. Now how much of that water is able to be released back into the environment, or cleaned up again and reused as potable water?

With carbon usage, we talk about net carbon. Should we not also talk about net water usage, rather than just using these large numbers when most of it is reclaimable? Shouldn't we be talking about the procedures to reclaim water, including the very real possibility of just letting it evaporate back into the water cycle?
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Old 11-11-2019, 10:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
It depends on how abundant water is where the product is made, and it also depends what form the water is in, and hence what other uses it could be put to. If the water for your beef comes from grass, and the water in the grass comes from rain, and you can't do anything else with the rain, then maybe turning it into beef really is the most efficient way to use that water.
Pasture fed cattle often have their food supplemented by hay, and are finished up eating grain to fatten up, so you have to count the water for that too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dewey Finn
What if an almond orchard was replaced by trees that don't produce any crop (at least any directly useful to people)? What would the water consumption be then? Isn't a good part of the water consumption just necessary for a large plant, like a tree?
Maybe that area wouldn't naturally grow trees, or would grow trees that use less water.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BigT
One major aspect is that, in most case, water is not used up in these processes. Sure, you used that much water. Now how much of that water is able to be released back into the environment, or cleaned up again and reused as potable water?

With carbon usage, we talk about net carbon. Should we not also talk about net water usage, rather than just using these large numbers when most of it is reclaimable? Shouldn't we be talking about the procedures to reclaim water, including the very real possibility of just letting it evaporate back into the water cycle?
Rain falling on farmland, and excess irrigation returning to the river, picks up a nutrient load moving through the soil, which can cause algal blooms and other problems. But even if the water isn't gone for good, the same water can only support one crop (or process) at a time.


Water is one of those things that people are used to thinking of as an unlimited resource. Turns out that with the scale that we now do things on, it isn't unlimited, and we do have to think about how to manage it. At least in my part of the world. It's been huge issue in Australia for a while now.
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Old 11-12-2019, 10:51 AM
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I think a bunch of you are looking at this the wrong way. I mean, does that water leave the Earth? No. But, have we made considerable effort to gather, clean and distribute that water? You bet we have. And then we make decisions on how to use that carefully gathered resource. Some decisions make great use of that water and some decisions waste that water. Making decisions that 'waste' less of that water seem like a good idea, no? And the numbers that credit rice or almonds or whatever with the use of a specific volume of water should be taken with a grain of salt. Those are aggregate estimates and can vary wildly depending on circumstances. Again, choosing different methods of watering and different products to water can make very positive impacts on how our clean water is utilized.

Energy isn't a bad analogy. We gather energy in many different forms (gas, solar, wind, diesel, etc.) and then we make decisions on how to use it. The energy still exists in the universe, but in a much less useful form after we've run it through an engine, listened to a stereo or whatever.
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Old 11-12-2019, 11:15 AM
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I remember a couple of years ago being "asked" to curtail my water usage by not washing my car or watering my law only two days per week and then discovering that farmers not only pay less for their water but use like 10x what all residential consumers were using. An easier way to accomplish this is having water not be subsidized for industrial and agricultural so that the price you pay is reflective of true costs but in the mean time knowing how water intensive some operations are can give you the knowledge to avoid them.
Here's the thing though- a lot of that water rationing stuff is extremely dependent on your local water utility/authority and their access to water.

For example, I live in Dallas. We've never really had serious water rationing in the 12 years I've lived here, while Collin County (just north of Dallas) seems to have had water rationing nearly every summer since 2001. Why? Because they drew/draw their water from a single lake, and Dallas draws theirs from five or six, with more in the planning phases. The price and any water restrictions (or not) that result from that is independent of the agricultural use of water by farmers- they don't buy it from the water utilities in most cases. Farmers generally have water rights to wells or surface water from lakes, rivers or other bodies of water that they use to irrigate with.
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Old 11-12-2019, 11:31 AM
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Most of you folks are missing the real point.

There is, indeed, plenty of water. Our planet is 3/4 or so water. It's not going anywhere.

But people, animals, and plants, for the most part, need fresh water. The bulk of the water on earth contains unacceptable amounts of salt (or other unacceptable minerals). And a lot of the fresh water is biologically contaminated. But salt is the biggie.

You can get fresh water from salt water by distillation or other processes (like reverse osmosis). In fact, we rely upon Mother Nature to distill most of our fresh water by distillation through evaporation and precipitation. But there's only so much of that, and our burgeoning population and industrial civilization is feeling the effects of limitation.

we need lots of fresh water for people, animals, agriculture, and manufacturing. we're already running some rivers dry. Los Angeles basically stole the water from California's Central Basin. We're using up "fossil water" underground in the West of the US, and people have suggested bringing icebergs up to LA to reduce their shortages.

Fresh water is defintely the issue.

at one time, access to potable water affected how many people could live where. Aruba used to have a tiny population because only a relatively small amount of natural fresh water was "processed" by nature. Now Aruba has a huge tourist population, which followed development of a huge industrial population. Both were made possible by massive distillation fresh water plants, which require large inputs of energy. Without this, Aruba would have to go back to a Stone age population density.

Salt Lake City is blessed with a lot of fresh water from snow melt runoff, but most of it was not held in natural reservoirs, and the soil was heavily contaminated by salt from evaporating Lake Bonneville. Today the Salt Lake Valley is lush and green -- but it would go back to relatively barren sawgrass fields if it weren't for the inhabitants watering their lawns daily.

And, as others have noted, it's all about how much water is where. Los Angeles now supports an enormous population made possible by concentrating as much potable water as possible. Before the diversion of other rivers and suchlike, the LA area was much less lush, supporting a smaller population, with the boom-or-bust cycle of water influx that used to provide fiumaras, and now gives rise top the periodic floods and mudslides that devastate the valleys (alternating with enormous wildfires). LA's combination of high population density and large agricultural output promise a coming reckoning if not controlled somehow.
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Old 11-12-2019, 09:19 PM
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For example, I live in Dallas. We've never really had serious water rationing in the 12 years I've lived here, while Collin County (just north of Dallas) seems to have had water rationing nearly every summer since 2001. Why? Because they drew/draw their water from a single lake, and Dallas draws theirs from five or six, with more in the planning phases. The price and any water restrictions (or not) that result from that is independent of the agricultural use of water by farmers- they don't buy it from the water utilities in most cases. Farmers generally have water rights to wells or surface water from lakes, rivers or other bodies of water that they use to irrigate with.
Nitpick here--Collin County had multiple sources. One of, if not their biggest, source was Lake Texoma, which ended up getting infected with the invasive zebra mussels. This caused a problem because the water intake was on the Oklahoma side of the border, so now the water had to cross the state border, and was shut down for a while because that now caused problems with Federal regs about controlling zebra mussels.

And water "rationing" was really first-world-problems in the sense that the rationing has never really gone beyond stuff like upping enforcement on what days you're allowed to let the automatic sprinklers water your lawn.
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Old 11-13-2019, 01:56 AM
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Amount of ordinary water needed to fill a vial truthfully marketed as
"Virtually certain to contain a molecule once excreted in an eye-tear by Alexander the Great"
ó One milligram.
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Old 11-13-2019, 07:41 AM
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Here's the thing though- a lot of that water rationing stuff is extremely dependent on your local water utility/authority and their access to water.

For example, I live in Dallas. We've never really had serious water rationing in the 12 years I've lived here, while Collin County (just north of Dallas) seems to have had water rationing nearly every summer since 2001. Why? Because they drew/draw their water from a single lake, and Dallas draws theirs from five or six, with more in the planning phases. The price and any water restrictions (or not) that result from that is independent of the agricultural use of water by farmers- they don't buy it from the water utilities in most cases. Farmers generally have water rights to wells or surface water from lakes, rivers or other bodies of water that they use to irrigate with.
True its based on the area where your water is controlled but most western states are controlled at the state level and are having state level rationing. Here is a quick article about California almond farmers and how state level water politics are effecting them.

Here in Colorado the Rio Grande compact and the Colorado river compact both are effecting our ability to refill reservoirs during the high snow fall amounts we've seen the last couple of years. That doesn't lead to rationing today since its a time of plenty but when the droughts return not having full reservoirs will lead us to rationing quicker.

Lack of water is impacting Colorado's growth plan since the denver water basin is at full utilization and that is where most people are moving too. I know of a new subdivision that was required to truck in all of their water while building a pipeline from another drainage basin. You are correct that a farmer isn't buying water from the same municipality I am but the decision to give that water to a farmer or a city is what trickles down to water rationing in cities.

To go back to the OP this is also where the knowledge of what you're buying can make a difference since encouraging farmers to use less water either by methods or crops can allow more water to be fed into the municipality.
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Old 11-13-2019, 01:38 PM
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Note that in many places we are depleting underground fresh water sources (aquifers) that take somewhere between decades or millennia to refresh at unsustainable rates.

The problem with, for example, almonds taking a lot of water to grow is that there is tons of bad pricing and policy around water use, and the result will be short term profit and long term ruin.

We're planting tons of almond trees in California and using up what is effectively a one-time fresh water resource to keep them alive. When the aquifer runs dry, it doesn't matter that there's plenty of salt water in the Pacific Ocean. There's no economically feasible way to get it to the almond trees. So the trees will die, the farmers will go bankrupt, and we won't have the aquifer as a buffer against drought because we used it all up to grow very thirsty plants in a semi-desert.
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Old 11-13-2019, 03:14 PM
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Cattle person here.

They often say something like "it takes so many gallons of water or so many pounds of grain or so many acres - to produce a pound of beef". This is an example of messing with numbers and statistics.

Cattle eat grass in a pasture or hay. Sometimes they eat other things like corn or corn silage or crop residue or other things but I can tell you, they do NOT take food from humans. Hogs can eat even more. Chickens can eat insects.

Also commodity prices for corn and soybeans are very low so often those are fed to animals.

Granted I'm talking about range cattle. Not the intense factory farm operations which I'm against.

As for water, its water from a well, pond, or stream. It's not municipal water.
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Old 11-13-2019, 04:27 PM
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Cattle eat grass in a pasture or hay. Sometimes they eat other things like corn or corn silage or crop residue or other things but I can tell you, they do NOT take food from humans. Hogs can eat even more. Chickens can eat insects.
Not a cattle person, but I thought very few of the millions of cattle are pastured or eat hay. I thought most eat corn, which is grown for the purpose of feeding cattle. So we're not directly competing for the food, but a vast amount of acreage is devoted to growing cattle feed rather than people food or whatever.
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Old 11-14-2019, 12:19 AM
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Note that in many places we are depleting underground fresh water sources (aquifers) that take somewhere between decades or millennia to refresh at unsustainable rates.
Parts of the Ogallala Aquifer have lost over 15 feet of groundwater in the past two decades.

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Cattle person here.
...
As for water, its water from a well, pond, or stream. It's not municipal water.
Perhaps you and iamthewalrus(:3= should discuss whether water use can deplete groundwater even if it's not "municipal" water.
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Old 11-14-2019, 12:20 PM
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It’s a good question. It would be useful to compare a standardized way. But I suspect that a lot of the time the number is contrived. It’s easy to include tangential stuff to bolster a political point.
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Old 11-14-2019, 11:18 PM
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Itís a good question. It would be useful to compare a standardized way. But I suspect that a lot of the time the number is contrived. Itís easy to include tangential stuff to bolster a political point.
How about we compare the water use of a cattle farm to say a golf course?
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Old 11-15-2019, 01:01 AM
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People, our pets, and cattle, are mostly water. Squeeze them all dry and we'll have no shortages.
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Old 11-18-2019, 07:00 AM
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People, our pets, and cattle, are mostly water. Squeeze them all dry and we'll have no shortages.
The thread is almost defunct, but I decided to lay out some basic figures.

Altogether there are 1.33 billion Gt (gigatons) of water on the planet Earth, but only 33.3 million Gt of that is fresh water. 1 Gt == 1 cubic kilometer.

Of the 33.3 million Gt of freshwater, about 10 million Gt is groundwater, and 23.2 million is in the form of ice (glaciers, ice caps, and 0.28 Gt ground ice and permafrost).

This leaves just 123,000 Gt for liquid freshwater other than groundwater. This water is broken down as follows:
  • 84,000 Gt ó lakes
  • 15,000 Gt ó soil moisture
  • 12,000 Gt ó atmosphere
  • 10,000 Gt ó swamps and marshes
  • 1,000 Gt ó rivers
  • 1,000 Gt ó living creatures
The above figures are derived from a Wikipedia article. Living creatures contain about half as much carbon as water, so the Wiki numbers imply that the total biomass comprises about 500 Gt of carbon. I was relieved when a scientific article gave that figure for the Earth's biomass!

Of a total living biomass of 550 Gt (of carbon), plants constitute a huge majority with bacteria in a distant 2nd place. Animals altogether have 2 Gt carbon mass, mostly arthropods and fish. Mammals altogether have less than 0.2 Gt, almost all of which is humans and their livestock.

TL;DR: The quantity of groundwater exceeds all the water in humans and their cattle and pets by a factor of about 30 million.
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