What's Your Water Footprint?

What's Your Water Footprint?

Emily Han
Aug 12, 2009

Ever since we can remember, we were taught to be conscientious about water use – turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth, be mindful about watering lawns, etc. Lately, the scope of water conservation has expanded as local, national, and international conversations about water are turning toward food choices. The concept of our water footprint is something we are starting to look at more deeply, thanks to several articles and a handy online calculator...

The Water Footprint Network defines the concept as "the total volume of freshwater that is used to produce the goods and services consumed by the individual or community or produced by the business." This includes everything from drinking and washing to the water used to produce our food, paper, and clothing.

When it comes to food, it takes, for example, about 18 gallons of water to produce one apple, 53 gallons for one egg, and 2,050 gallons for a pound of beef. Thinking about this can be overwhelming and, of course, we should remember that water is just one aspect among many when considering the links between our diet, the environment, and other factors that might be important to us. But we are committed to learning more.

Personally, I am starting to eat less of certain foods and am especially mindful and grateful when I do eat big water guzzlers. I am also excited to support practitioners of dry farming. In the kitchen, I am using less water for boiling and trying to cook with fewer dishes and utensils so there is less washing up required (for some reason, this is a really difficult one for me, but I am trying!).

Is your water footprint something you consider? Do you have any tips or thoughts?

Further reading:
Water Footprint Product Gallery and Calculator, from Water Footprint Network
What's Your Water Footprint?, from Mother Jones
From Lettuce to Beef, What's the Water Footprint of Your Food?, from Treehugger
Food products should carry 'water footprint' information, says report, from The Guardian
The Best Dirt on Dry Farming: Conserving Water (and Making Great Wine), from Greenopia

Related: Weekend Meditation and Consciousness Raising: It's Up to You and Me

(Image: Water Footprint Network)

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