What is Your Water Footprint?

You may have heard of a carbon footprint, but are you familiar with a water footprint? A "water footprint" is the total amount of fresh water used by an individual. 

The water can be consumed either directly or indirectly.  Direct water use is when you turn on a faucet or a hose for water. Some examples include brushing teeth, showering, flushing the toilet, washing a car, or watering a garden. 

Indirect water is needed to produce, grow, or manufacture the items we use every day. This water is necessary for producing steel for your car, growing cotton for your jeans, and processing your hamburger meat.

Understanding the total contributions to your water footprint is the first step to creating a culture of conservation and protecting water on a larger scale. The following are tips for reducing your direct and indirect water use, thereby lessening your water footprint.

Reduce Your Direct Water Use
•Turn off the water while brushing your teeth and save 25 gallons of water a month.
•Drop your tissue into the trash instead of flushing it down the toilet and save gallons.
•Run your dishwasher and clothes washer only when full and save up to 1,000 gallons a month.
•Save water and cut down on your laundry by reusing your bathroom towels to dry off with.
•Take a shower instead of a bath. A shower only uses 10-25 gallons, while a bath takes up to 70 gallons!

Learn more about your water footprint.

How Much Water is Used to Make these Items?
Gallons of Water
Required to Produce*
1 pound of chocolate3,170
1 pound of beef1,799
1 gallon of wine1,008
1 gallon of milk880
1 gallon of coffee880
1 gallon of beer689
1 pound of chicken468
1 pound of wheat134
1 pound of tea128
*Figures from National Geographic

Reduce Your Indirect Water Use
•Switch to a morning cup of tea instead of coffee. It takes 37 gallons of water to produce an 8oz cup of coffee, but only 8 gallons for the same size cup of tea.
•Buy only the food you can eat before it goes bad. Indirect water is needed to produce fruits, vegetables, grains, meat, and dairy. Anything you throw away is the same as pouring water down the drain.
•Skip the meat in your meal one day a week. Depending how far back you go in the production chain, a hamburger can use up to 1,300 gallons of water to produce.
•Visit your farmers' market and buy foods locally. This lessens the water required for transportation. Also, many large crops are grown with harmful irrigation practices.
•Purchase clothes made of synthetic fibers instead of cotton. Sheets made of 100% cotton requires 300% more water to produce than a 50/50 cotton/polyester blend.
•Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. The less we consume, the less water we use.