5 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Water Footprint

Written by Margaret Badore

TreeHugger recently had the chance to†speak with Stephen Leahy, the author of the new book “Your Water Footprint.” The book looks beyond the everyday water uses that weíre most familiar with, like showering and cooking, and explores the water that we rely on unknowingly. This is the “virtual water” that grows the food we eat, is used to generate electricity, and produce our electronics.

“Itís an enormous amount of water that we end up consuming every day without realizing it,” said Leahy.

Fresh water is becoming an increasingly rare resource in the face of pollution, global warming and higher demand on existing water resources for manufacturing and agriculture. “Your Water Footprint” argues that part of the solution to these problems is through regulations and policies, and part of the solution lies in all of us becoming a little more water smart. “I think we need to have an attitude shift,” said Leahy. “For thousands of years, humans treated water as something sacred and I think they were quite right about that. We need to go back towards that respect for water.”

The book is full of water-saving tips, and below weíve shared a few.

1. Drink tea instead of coffee

It may seem like a cup of coffee and a cup of tea contain the same amount of liquid, but growing coffee beans is a much more water-intense process than growing tea leaves. The amount of virtual water needed to produce a cup of tea is 9 gallons, while the amount of virtual water in a cup of coffee is 37 gallons.

2. If youíre craving junk food, order a cheese pizza instead of a cheeseburger

© “Your Water Footprint” by Stephen Leahy

According to Leahy, ordering a small cheese pizza instead of a cheeseburger reduces the water footprint of your meal by 301 gallons. Beef requires a lot of water to produce, because of the massive amount of feed that cows consume. On the whole, a plant-based diet has a much smaller water footprint than one that contains meat or other animal products.

3. Put your food scraps in the compost, not the sinkís garbage disposal

In order to work properly, the garbage disposal in your kitchen sink needs a lot of water and some energy too. But itís not really the best way to get rid of food scraps, because it can put stress on your areaís septic system and requires even more energy to clean that water at the local waste treatment facility. Instead, youíll save water by composting kitchen scraps.

4. Buy secondhand jeans instead of new ones

Jeans have a very large virtual water footprint, about 2,100 gallons per pair. Most of that water is used for growing the cotton, but water is also used to wash and dye the denim. The next time you need a new pair, check out a vintage shop or second-hand store instead of buying new.

5. Water your garden with rainwater instead of tap water

Use rain barrels to collect water from the downspouts. This way, you wonít be using the treated drinking water thatís in your tap to water your plants. Even if you still have to turn on the sprinklers or hook up the hose sometimes, youíll still get significant water savings.

This post originally appeared on TreeHugger.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Debbi W.
Debbi -4 years ago

Watering with rain water... That's a great idea, if you live where you can collect rain water.

Kamia T.
Kamia T4 years ago

I'm not sure that the comment regarding pizza vs cheeseburger is correct, simply because the grass and grains that feed most animals come from natural rain falling - as opposed to all the water needed to produce cheese, grind, package and transport everything, and produce the tomato paste, which is usually row-cropped and sucks up tons of water for a minimum of 90 days before ever producing a single fruit. Otherwise, all good ideas.

Angev GERIDONI4 years ago

❦ ❦ ❦ ❦ ❧ BECOME VEGETARIAN ❧ ❦ ❦ ❦ ❦

Ana MESNER4 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Carol Johnson
Carol Johnson4 years ago


Angela K.
Angela K4 years ago

Thanks for sharing

Julia Cabrera-Woscek

Thanks for the article.