Friday, September 2, 2011

Your Water Footprint

A water footprint is a person's total freshwater usage. This goes beyond water used for drinking and bathing which is known as direct water usage. Your water footprint also includes all the water that is involved with manufacturing goods you use, growing (or raising) the food you eat, and producing energy that powers your home. This "behind the scenes" and much larger part is known as virtual water usage.

It's surprising how much water is used for trivial things that we take for granted. When you drink a cup of coffee you might not realize that several gallons of water went into growing and processing the beans, packaging them, and shipping them to you. Many factors affect the water footprint of a product. Vegetarian foods usually require less water overall than non-vegetarian foods. Water is used to clean, and grow food throughout the lifetime of the animal that becomes your next hamburger. More water is then needed to process, clean, package, transport, and cook the meat.

Water is also required in the production of everyday products. The cotton in the clothes you wear requires a lot of water to be grown. Afterwards, water is required to process, package, ship the cotton and again to manufacture, package, and ship the clothing.

▬ 1,800 gallons of water are involved the making of a simple pair of jeans.(1)
▬ 53 gallons of water are needed to make a latte.(2)
▬ 2,500-5,000 gallons are needed for one pound of beef.(3) 

 The main point of all of this isn't to tell you to stop purchasing products that require water to be manufactured; it's a fact that nearly everything requires water to be processed. Instead, you should make small changes that will add up to a bigger change. For example, you could incorporate more fruits and vegetables that require fewer gallons into your diet. You could slowly start to decrease the amount of meat in your diet to save not only water, but money as well. Next time you purchase appliances, look for models that require less water to operate like low-flowing shower heads, toilets, and washing machines.

Keep in mind that as the standard of living rises for people throughout the world, the demand for water intensive foods and products will also rise. But we'll still have to manage with the same water supply that we have now.

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