Your water footprint

Water is the third ingredient in our Top Three Absolute Requirements for Life, after air and ahead of food.  Lately I’ve been reading about a concept called “virtual water,” or your “water footprint.” This is the sum of all the water that goes into supporting your life. We naturally think of the water we drink, flush, and bathe in. But did you realize that we use water to grow our food, grow the cotton for our clothes, and generate energy? The list goes on.

The Nature Conservancy,   using information from the Water Footprint Network, has prepared an amazing infographic. The average American’s water footprint is… almost 33,000 glasses a day, or over 750,000 gallons a year. Most of this is NOT in what we drink.  The biggest user of water is livestock that we eat as meat. Cotton is next – check out the infographic here. 

National Geographic gives even more details. One pound of beef requires 1,800 gallons of water. Soybeans require only 216. Refined sugar requires 198. Check out their “embedded water” site here. 

Since water for drinking and sustaining other non-human life obviously trumps waste, we are all involved in this issue.

What you can do:

  • Use less water to do dishes, laundry, and bathing. This means full dishwasher, shorter laundry cycles, and shorter showers.
  • Use less energy of all kinds. We get some hydroenergy from damming rivers.
  • Fix leaky faucets.
  • Eat less meat, or none.
  • Compost food scraps instead of using water and electricity to send them down the disposal.
  • Find more information in The Green Foodprint.

There’s only a certain amount of fresh water on earth at any point in the water circulation cycle. Let’s use it wisely.


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Ruth Mathews on May 2, 2012 at 7:39 AM

    You may also want to check out the wealth of information on water footprint at: The data used by The Nature Conservancy and National Geographic comes from the Water Footprint Network.


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