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Water Footprint

water-snow-ice-in-creek-croppedAs environmental awareness has hit the mainstream & we all know something about the concept of carbon footprint & at least some strategies to lessen the impact of our presence on our planet; the newest & very significant way we are being asked to assess our consumption is to analyze our use of one of this planets most precious resources- fresh water.  Less than 1% of the world’s fresh water (~0.007% of all water on earth) is accessible for direct human use. This is the water found in lakes, rivers, reservoirs and those underground sources that are shallow enough to be tapped at an affordable cost. Only this amount is regularly renewed by rain and snowfall, and is therefore available on a sustainable basis.

Visit the waterfootprint.org website at : http://www.waterfootprint.org/index.php?page=files/home to check your personal water footprint using the calculator which is quick and easy to use. While much of the information on this website is very technical and significant to scientists and policy analysts, increasing our individual awareness of the real cost of goods and its toll on our global water resources is invaluable. Living in mostly water rich North America has blinded many of its citizens to the reality of the fresh water crisis we all must face.

‘People use lots of water for drinking, cooking and washing, but even more for producing things such as food, paper, cotton clothes, etc. The water footprint is an indicator of water use that looks at both direct and indirect water use of a consumer or producer. The water footprint of an individual, community or business is defined 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.

Examples of water use to produce goods. If you never considered the amount of water required to produce 1kg of beef (2.2lbs) 15500 litres of water per kg of beef. add this to the carbon footprint of 1kg of beef and from a climate perspective, beef is in a class by itself. It takes a lot of energy and other natural resources to produce cattle feed, manage the animals’ manure (a major emitter of methane, a potent GHG [green house gas]), get the livestock to market, slaughter the animals, process and package the meat, dispose of the greater part of the carcass that won’t be human food, market the retail cuts, transport them home from the store, refrigerate them until dinner time, and then cook the beef. Tally the GHG emissions associated with all of those activities, Sonesson says, and you’ll find it’s the global-warming equivalent to spewing 19 kilograms of carbon dioxide for every kg of beef served. http://www.treehugger.com/files/2006/12/the_carbon_foot_1.php

Apple
Water footprint: 70 litres for one apple.
We assume here a hundred-grams apple. One glass of apple juice (200 ml) costs about 190 litres of water.

Beef
Water footprint: 15500 litres of water per kg of beef.
In an industrial beef production system, it takes in average three years before the animal is slaughtered to produce about 200 kg of boneless beef.
The animal consumes nearly 1300 kg of grains (wheat, oats, barley, corn, dry peas, soybean meal and other small grains),
7200 kg of roughages (pasture, dry hay, silage and other roughages), 24 cubic meter of water for drinking and 7 cubic meter of water for servicing.
This means that to produce one kilogram of boneless beef, we use about 6.5 kg of grain, 36 kg of roughages, and 155 litres of water (only for drinking and servicing).
Producing the volume of feed requires about 15300 litres of water in average.

Beer
Water footprint: 75 litres of water for one glass of beer.
One glass contains about 250 ml of beer.
Most of the water behind the beer is for producing the barley.

Coffee

Water footprint: 140 litres for 1 cup of coffee.

It costs about 21000 litres of water to produce 1 kg of roasted coffee. For a standard cup of coffee we require 7 gram of roasted coffee, so that a cup of coffee costs 140 litres of water. Assuming that a standard cup of coffee is 125 ml, we thus need more than 1100 drops of water for producing one drop of coffee. Drinking tea instead of coffee would save a lot of water. For a standard cup of tea of 250 ml we require 30 litres of water.

The world population requires about 120 billion cubic metres of water per year in order to be able to drink coffee. This is equivalent to 1.5 times the annual Rhine runoff and constitutes 2 % of the global water use for crop production. International trade in coffee products is responsible for 80 billion cubic meters of virtual water exports, which is about 6% of the international virtual water flows in the world. Among all the crop and livestock products coffee stands at the top position in the list of global virtual water flows.

Bread
Water footprint: 40 litres of water for one slice of wheat bread.
Producing wheat costs 1300 litres of water per kg (global average).
One slice of bread has a weight of about 30 gram, which implies a water footprint of 40 litres.
If the bread is consumed together with 1 slice of cheese (10g), then it all together costs 90 litres of water.

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