Written by Katherine Martinko
Every person has a “water footprint,” which is the amount of fresh water that we use daily, plus the water required to produce any goods and services that we also consume. The former gets more attention than the latter, since household water use is easier to track, thanks to the monthly water bill. It’s common to think about water consumption in terms of how long you’re in the shower, how often you run the dishwasher, whether you left the sprinkler on or whether someone forgot to turn off the tap.
But it’s important not to forget the water footprint of external goods and services, such as foods, because it’s probably larger than you suspect. Here is a disturbing list of how many gallons of water are needed to produce various products (via National Geographic, “The Hidden Water We Use“).
Professor Arjen Hoekstra created the†concept of the water footprint: “Many countries have significantly externalized their water footprint, importing water-intensive goods from elsewhere. This puts pressure on the water resources in the exporting regions, where too often mechanisms for wise water governance and conservation are lacking.” Twenty percent of the U.S. water footprint — 750,248 cubic gallons per person annually — is external, interestingly located in the Yangtze River basin of China.
While we can’t stop buying food altogether, it is possible to make consumer choices that limit the amount of water used to maintain our lifestyle. Go vegetarian, or at least opt for less wasteful meats, such as goat. Order a soy burger instead of beef. Drink water straight from the tap instead of coffee, tea or orange juice. Don’t buy that extra cotton T-shirt.
Keep in mind that water scarcity affects 2.7 billion people worldwide for at least a month each year. Water should not be treated as disposable. It’s a privilege and deserves great respect because, without it, we cannot survive.
This post was originally published in TreeHugger
Photo Credit: fox_kiyo
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may
not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.