Thursday, August 14, 2014

Water Footprint

In a previous post, I asked how beneficial being aware of our water use would be to actually conserving water. The insinuation was that we should be monitoring our water use directly, kind of like we monitor our speed when driving down the highway. However, this type of monitoring misses a large portion of our water consumption as it ignores virtual water.

Virtual water is the water it takes to produce the food and other goods we consume. We saw some examples in the video with the questions about beef and rice. But virtual water exists in our clothing (growing cotton needs to be irrigated after all), in our electronics, even in the fuel we use to power our vehicles. Tracking this type of water consumption individually would be very difficult.

Luckily, we don't need to be that specific; we can use estimates instead. Two websites I visited recently provide calculators to estimate your water footprint (or the amount of water you consume in a given time period). They use different factors, and require different levels of information from the user, but both are attempts at helping all of that virtual water leak into our consciousness.

  • National Geographic's calculator is geared toward U.S. citizens, but requires fewer details about your lifestyle (many questions allow you to answer "Above Average," Average," or "Below Average."  I liked it because it made the virtual water more apparent (asking about energy production, flights, and other consumption patterns). 
  • is more international in scope and asks for more specific numbers, but it doesn't tease apart the virtual water as much (except for that found in food). However, both of them put me around the same consumption levels of 750-800 gallons per day. Yeah, I know, that's a lot. But it's still less than half of the average American. How do you stack up?

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