Our real water footprint

The production of a pound of beef requires over 2,000 gallons of water, but it only takes around 120 gallons to produce 2 pounds of maize (corn)?

How about 30 gallons of water to create a single cup of coffee?

How is this possible?

WaterFootprint.org is an interesting site where you can gain information on volume of fresh water used to produce various goods and services. A water footprint isn’t just the amount the cow or plant consumes directly, but all the other processes involved to get the finished product to your plate or door – and the amount wasted along the way through evaporation or pollution of other water sources.

Our water consumption goes beyond food, washing and keeping our lawns green – when you think about all the different things we use such as concrete, steel and plastics; and lets not forget crude oil, water plays a part in everything we produce, use and consume.

Here’s some mind boggling statistics as to the fresh water consumption per person for various countries taken from WaterFootprint.org. The report had the numbers in cubic meters, but I’ve done a rough conversion into gallons and litres:

USA : 2483 m3 = 655,939 gallons or 2,483,000 litres
Canada :  2049 m3 = 541,288 gallons or 2,049,000 litres
Australia :  1393 m3 = 367,991 gallons or 1,393,000 litres
UK : 1245 m3 = 328,894 gallons 1,245,000 litres
India : 980 m3 = 258,888 gallons or 980,000 litres
China : 702 m3 = 185,448 gallons or 702,000 litres

Given Australia is the driest inhabited continent on Earth, our consumption per person is very disturbing. Additionally, much of the country is in the grips of a so-called “drought”. I state so-called because I think we have to face up to the fact this isn’t a drought any more, this is just the way things are going to be in the future. This is a part of climate change – normally dry areas becoming dryer and wet areas becoming wetter.

While there will be just as much water on the planet tomorrow as there is today and in 10,000 years as there is today; it’s the quality of the water that’s of concern.

Far too much of the water we use winds up in the ocean or polluted – and then more energy intensive processes are needed to source clean water or to treat saline/polluted water to make it fit for consumption again. It’s just a vicious cycle we’re perpetuating – energy consumption often equals further pollution and greenhouse gas emissions; adding further to our environmental challenges.

While we may not be quite ready to dump the car for a bike or to go extreme-green by turning vegan and living in a cave, there’s a stack of things we can all do to lessen our water footprint – every litre saved counts. It’s figures like these that also help me to stop and think before I buy something; i.e.: “do I really need or want this?”

Pick up some simple water saving tips.