The Importance of Calculating Your Water Footprint


If you consider yourself eco-minded, then you’re probably comfortable bandying about words like carbon footprint, solar panels and electric cars. “Water footprint” should be part of your green vocabulary as well.

Water shortages are hitting the headlines as summer creeps across North America, but what does this mean for households and individual consumers? Calculating your water footprint will show you exactly how your choices, in your home and with your purchases, are so very important and the impact we have on world freshwater resources.

Conserving water at home can be accomplished in a myriad of ways. Special showerheads help conserve water as you conscientiously cut back your time beneath the spray. Turning off the faucet as you brush your teeth or filling the sink to do dishes instead of constantly running the water are other ways you can conserve.

Cutting back on sprinkler use in the summer and washing your car in a carwash that recycles their water are two more ways to be aware of your fresh water consumption. But there are ways to stretch your awareness even further.

Before grabbing that eco-friendly bottle of wine off the shelf, take a moment to consider the amount of fresh water it takes to grow the grapes and produce the wine you’re about to enjoy.

Approximately 125 ml of wine, or one glass, costs 110 liters of fresh water to produce which is around 29 gallons. Then consider your cheeseburger or steak. The production of beef and its byproducts like leather etc, has a water footprint of 15400 liters of fresh water. That’s 4,068 gallons of fresh water.

You can find out more about your favorite products at waterfootprint.org an organization dedicated to raising awareness and helping with water conservation efforts worldwide. They offer several calculators, one of which will help you calculate your personal water footprint. Not just what the actual fresh water that you and your family consume on a daily basis, but what goes into the products and food that you buy.

What does this all mean? Obviously you’re not going to stop using fresh water resources all together, but there are ways you can help conserve. As a wealthy nation, we have outsourced most of our water-heavy production to other nations. Some of these countries lack the laws to protect its environment and resources and are struggling with severe shortages.

By making careful choices in the items that you consume, you can lessen the dependency and demand on other nations for items that use vast quantities of fresh water. It’s unrealistic to think we can live without fresh water sources, but if we’re not good stewards, those sources will disappear faster than we thought possible.

Photo credit: Fox Kiyo via Flicker Creative Commons

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