Quantcast

8 Shocking Facts About Water Consumption

Water is a finite resource. And its preciousness has been driven home by water wars in California, where record drought has agricultural users, fracking interests and home consumers vying for the same supply; in the southwest where the water levels in the rivers, aquifers and reservoirs that provide waters to major communities like Phoenix and Las Vegas are dropping; and in the battles being fought over withdrawing water from the Great Lakes. Reducing our water footprint is essential to conserving this life-giving substance.

"The saying that 'nothing is free' applies more to water than anything else we consume, considering just three percent of the world's water is drinkable and that we are using more of it than ever before."
Photo credit: Shutterstock

We actually have two water footprints: direct and indirect. Many of us are familiar with direct water-use footprint, and mat already be taking steps to reduce it: taking shorter showers, not letting the water run while we're brushing our teeth, doing fewer loads of laundry, flushing the toilet less often or even installing low-flush toilets.

We probably don't think of our indirect water footprint often if at all, which involved the water used to make the products and services we use. Author Stephen Leahy, an Ontario-based environmental journalist, wrote about some of them in his book Your Water Footprint: The Spublished earlier this year.

"A 'water footprint' is the amount of fresh water used to produce the goods and services we consume, including growing, harvesting, packaging and shipping," he says. "From the foods we eat to the clothes we wear to the books we read and the music we listen to, all of it costs more than what we pay at the checkout."

Here are some things you can do to reduce your indirect water footprint.

1. Leahy reveals that 95 percent of our water footprint is hidden in our meals. While a pound of lettuce costs about 15 gallons of freshwater and a slice of bread only 10 gallons, chocolate can cost an astronomical 2,847 gallons a pound and beef can run us 2,500 gallons. Given that raising livestock is particularly water-intensive, eating vegetarian is one good way to reduce your water footprint. Better yet, go vegan: all animal products, including cheese, eggs, butter and milk take a lot of water to produce. Chicken has a much lower water footprint than beef though, so even giving up red meat can help.

2. Think about what you drink. Tell people you're passing on the soft drink and going for a beer because its water footprint is lower. And it is. A beer takes about 20 gallons of water to create, while soft drinks can be close to 50, depending on packaging and what sugars are used. And drink tea instead of coffee. Coffee consumes about 37 gallons of water in the production process, tea takes only 9 gallons.

3. The clothes we wear also consume vast amounts of freshwater to produce with cotton T-shirts and denim jeans exceptionally high in water use. One pound of cotton requires 700 gallons of water. Shop secondhand, thrift and vintage stores, or buy well-made clothes intended to last.

4. Actually, buying to last is a good way to reduce water consumption in general. Virtually all manufactured products consume a lot of water in the process. To manufacture a smartphone requires 240 gallons of water. Do you really need to trade in your phone every time a new model comes out?

5. Take public transportation (or better yet walk.) Not only do cars consume tens of thousands of gallons of water during manufacturing, but the gas required to run them uses more than a gallon of water for each gallon of gas.

6. Don't install or use a garbage disposal. It's water intensive. Compost instead.

7. Cut your plastic use! Making one pound of plastic requires 24 gallons of water. Use less and recycle what you can. Look for items with less packaging.

8. If you have a garden, install rain barrels to conserve water instead using that hose. Rain barrels hook up to your downspouts and collect rain water to reuse. You can make one from a 55-gallon drums (more recycling) and a easy-to-find little hardware. There's a big movement among artists to paint rain barrels so that you can also have a distinctive and colorful work of art outside your house.

"The saying that 'nothing is free' applies more to water than anything else we consume, considering just three percent of the world's water is drinkable and that we are using more of it than ever before," says Leahy. "Many experts predict dire water shortages if we continue on our current path. Factor in climate change, population growth and pollution and we have an unsustainable situation."

There's lots more information about your water footprint and what you can do to reduce it at WaterFootprint.org. They even have a calculator so you can figure out your own water footprint.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

How Drought-Stricken California Can Do More With Less Water

Top 10 U.S. Cities Running Out of Water

The Climate Crisis is a Water Crisis

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
GMO
Soy plants. Pixabay

Mexico Revokes Monsanto's Permit to Market GMO Soy in Seven States

Monsanto has lost its permit to commercialize genetically modified (GMO) soy in seven Mexican states, Reuters reported.

Mexico's agriculture sanitation authority SENASICA revoked the permit—a decision that the St. Louis-based seed giant called unjustified.

Keep reading... Show less
Renewable Energy
Puerto Rico National Guard / Flickr

This Brilliant Initiative Is Sending 100 Solar Trailers to Puerto Rico for Free

A remarkable collaborative effort to deploy portable solar energy systems to relieve critical areas in Puerto Rico is well underway.

The "Power On Puerto Rico" project from the Amicus Solar Cooperative, a nationwide solar energy cooperative, and Amurtel, an international disaster relief nonprofit, is sending 100 off-grid Solar Outreach Systems (SOS) to the storm-battered island.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Rebecca Gruby, CC BY-ND

To Succeed, Large Ocean Sanctuaries Need to Benefit Both Sea Life and People

By Rebecca Gruby, Lisa Campbell, Luke Fairbanks and Noella Gray

There is growing concern that the world's oceans are in crisis because of climate change, overfishing, pollution and other stresses. One response is creating marine protected areas, or ocean parks, to conserve sea life and key habitats that support it, such as coral reefs.

In 2000, marine protected areas covered just 0.7 percent of the world's oceans. Today 6.4 percent of the oceans are protected—about 9 million square miles. In 2010, 196 countries set a goal of protecting 10 percent of the world's oceans by 2020.

Keep reading... Show less
iStock

Geoengineering Could Create More Problems Than It Could Solve

By Tim Radford

Geoengineering—the untested technofix that would permit the continued use of fossil fuels—could create more problems than it could solve.

By masking sunlight with injections of sulphate aerosols in the stratosphere, nations could perhaps suppress some of the devastating hurricanes and typhoons that in a rapidly warming world threaten northern hemisphere cities. But they could also scorch the Sahel region of Africa, to threaten millions of lives and livelihoods, according to new research.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Renewable Energy
Tesla's massive Powerpack battery system in South Australia is charged by a nearby wind farm. Tesla

Tesla Finishes Building World's Largest Battery Month and a Half Ahead of Schedule

Elon Musk has won an audacious bet he made back in March to build a battery system for South Australia in “100 days from contract signature or it is free."

The 100-megawatt Powerpack system is the world's largest, or three times bigger than Tesla and Edison's battery at Mira Loma in Ontario, California.

Keep reading... Show less
Adventure

REI Urges Customers to #OptOutside on Black Friday

BY Connor McGuigan

REI will once again shutter its doors on Black Friday as part of its #OptOutside campaign, which encourages people to forgo bargain-hunting and spend America's busiest shopping day outside. The outdoor retailer will also suspend online sales and provide all 12,000 employees with a paid day off to enjoy the outdoors.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

Blocked From Discussing Climate Change, Valve-Turner Faces 10 Years in Prison After Felony Conviction

By Julia Conley

After a judge refused to allow him to share his reasons for shutting off a tar sands pipeline valve in a protest of fossil fuel mining, 65-year-old climate activist Leonard Higgins was found guilty of criminal mischief—a felony—and misdemeanor criminal trespass. Higgins faces up to 10 years in jail and as much as $50,000 in fines.

"I'm happy for the opportunity to share why I had to shut down this pipeline, and I really appreciate the time and dedication of the jury and the judge," Higgins said. "I was disappointed and surprised by the verdict, but even more disappointed that I was not allowed a 'necessity defense,' and that I wasn't allowed to talk about climate change as it related to my state of mind. When I tried to talk about why I did what I did I was silenced. I'm looking forward to an appeal."

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
iStock

How to Talk to Your Relatives About Climate Change: A Guide for the Holidays

By Abigail Dillen

Most people who know me are too polite to question climate change when I'm around, but there are relatives and old family friends who hint at the great divide between their worldviews and mine. I think they sincerely believe that I would crush the economy forever if I had my way. On the other end of the spectrum are friends and family who are alarmed by climate and genuinely want to know what we and our elected officials can do about it. But no matter who's in the mix, it's hard to bring my work home for the holidays. Most of the time it feels easier to leave our existential crisis unmentioned.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!