Water Footprinting Basics
While turning off the faucet, taking shorter showers, and transforming our grass lawns into native habitats can conserve hundreds of gallons per week, this is only the tip of the iceberg. The truth is, the water used inside our homes and outside in our landscapes accounts for only 10% of our total consumption, while the remaining 90% remains invisible to the eye. We call this our water footprint, and taking personal responsibility for reducing it is the most effect path towards positive change.
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With emergency drought conditions occurring throughout Southern California, now is the time to focus on how we can use and value our most precious resource better.
While turning off the faucet, taking shorter showers, and transforming our grass lawns into native habitats can conserve hundreds of gallons per week, this is only the tip of the iceberg. The truth is, the water used inside our homes and outside in our landscapes accounts for only 10% of our total consumption, while the remaining 90% remains invisible to the eye.
We call this our water footprint, and taking personal responsibility for reducing it is the most effect path towards positive change.
Step By Step
What Is A Water Footprint?
A ‘footprint,’ in general, has become known as a quantitative measure showing the appropriation of natural resources by a human being.
In relationship to water, it represents the water necessary to produce a product. On average, agricultural products account for 70% of our fresh water use, industrial products 20%, and as previously mentioned, residential use for the remaining 10%.
What Is A Water Footprint? (Cont.)
For example, let’s look at the average cotton t-shirt. The journey a t-shirt makes from cotton plant to retail store shelves is long and water-intensive.
It begins with the farmer who grows the cotton. Then, machines pick, clean, and spin the cotton into thread. The thread is made into cloth, then the cloth is dyed, cut, and sown into a t-shirt. Lastly, the shirt goes into a cardboard box and is shipped to stores.
Every step of this journey, from growing the cotton to powering the machines to making the cardboard box, requires water—almost 650 gallons in total.
T-Shirts On Screen Table
Water For Food
What’s more astounding is the water required by the foods we eat—meat production being the largest.
It requires nearly 630 gallons of water to raise, process, and transport the meat for just one burger—with majority of this water use going to grow the animal feed (source).
Think that’s a lot? It requires over 4,000 to produce one steak (source).The drought in Southern California is a problem of this generation. The good news is, solutions exist, and if we commit to these solutions, we can alleviate this problem for future generations. Here’s five ways you can be part of the solution today!
Top 5 Ways To Reduce Your Water Footprint.
1. Purchase and use a reusable water bottle: 6 gallons/day
It takes almost 7 times as much water to produce a plastic bottle, than the water inside of it. Plus, every year in California, more than 1 billion plastic water bottles end up either in the ocean, or in the landfill where they leak toxic additives into the groundwater and take 1,000 years to biodegrade.
Use a refillable water bottle everyday, and you eliminate plastic waste and reduce your water footprint (source).
Be The Solution
Top 5 Ways (Cont.)
2. Turn off the lights and replace incandescent bulbs with CFLs or LEDs: 5 gallons/day
It takes at least a gallon of water to create one kilowatt hour of power — enough to run your air conditioner for one hour. And your lightbulbs? It takes 8 to 16 gallons of water to burn your 60-watt light bulb for 12 hours. That’s a lot of water!
In one year, one incandescent light bulb consumes about 3,000 to 6,300 gallons of water. Turn the lights off when you’re not using them, and save save save!
Top 5 Ways (Cont.)
3. Take care of the things you have so they last longer: 100’s of gallons/week
What happens to the things we buy and use once we throw them “away?” It takes a lot of water to manufacture new things, so choose your purchases wisely. Good design is about functionality and practicality, not trends. Remember to buy products that are durable, locally-made, and recyclable. Even better, buy used, trade, or barter with friends to save water daily!
Top 5 Ways (Cont.)
4. Swap a meat-based meal for a veggie-based meal one time per week: 1,000 gallons/week
Beef has one of the largest water footprints of any food choice. Animals require a lot more water than fruits or vegetables. In addition to the water that animals drink, it takes water to grow their feed and process their meat. Take a step down on the food chain and save water with every meal. Choose a veggie patty over meat, just one day a week.
Top 5 Ways (Cont.)
5. Grow your own food, or buy organic food from your local farmer's market: 150 gallons/day
It takes a lot of water to move food across the country (and sometimes the world), to your supermarket. When you buy local food, not only do you save the water otherwise spent in transportation and storage, but it’s likely that you’re buying food with fewer pesticides and pollutants that damage our water supply.
Start small and grow your favorite herbs at home in containers, or step it up, and grow veggies in a raised bed garden.