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    From Wikipedia, the water footprint is an indicator of water use that includes 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.

       Close up: A Water Drop Vision of clouds?

1 kilogram of beef requires 16 thousand litres of water.
1 cup of coffee requires 140 litres of water.
China's water footprint is about 700 cubic meters per capita per year.  Only about 7%  of the Chinese water footprint falls outside China.
Japan, at 1150 cubic meters per capita per year, has about 65% of its total water footprint outside its own borders.
The water footprint of the US is 2500 cubic meter per year per capita.

Again from wikipedia

Water use is measured in water volume consumed (evaporated) and/or polluted per unit of time. A water footprint can be calculated for any well-defined group of consumers (e.g. an individual, family, village, city, province, state or nation) or producers (e.g. a public organization, private enterprise or economic sector). The water footprint is a geographically explicit indicator, not only showing volumes of water use and pollution, but also the locations. However, the water footprint does not provide information on how the embedded water is contributing to water stress or environmental impacts.

    Professor Arjen Y. Hoekstra, creator of the water footprint concept and scientific director of the Water Footprint Network, explains why any of this matters.  "Water problems are often closely tied to the structure of the global economy. Many countries have significantly externalised their water footprint, importing water-intensive goods from elsewhere. This puts pressure on the water resources in the exporting regions, where too often mechanisms for wise water governance and conservation are lacking. Not only governments, but also consumers, businesses and civil society communities can play a role in achieving a better management of water resources."

    In the past 50 years, the world's water use has tripled. More than a third of the western United States sits atop groundwater that is being consumed faster than it's replenished. Half of the world's wetlands are gone, killed off in part by irrigation and dams, which have destroyed habitats along 60 percent of the planet's largest river systems. Since 1970, the population of freshwater species has been halved; one-fifth of all freshwater fish vanished in the past century—an extinction rate nearly 50 times that of mammals. And consuming more water has concentrated pesticides and fertilizers in what's left over: It's unsafe to swim or fish in nearly 40 percent of US rivers and streams, and polluted water sickens nearly 3.5 million Americans a year.

from Mother Jones Magazine

    Farmers often get blamed for water use issues, like in California where 80 percent of the state's water goes to agricultural purposes. According to the Pacific Institute, better conservation on farms in the semiarid Central Valley could save 1.1 trillion gallons of water a year.  That's 1.1 trillion gallons would just about supply the combined non-agricultural water needs of Nevada, Arizona, and Colorado combined.

    Farmers are not always to blame, however.  Many urbanites don't take water footprint into account when they make their daily decisions.  It goes beyond just multiple toilet flushes a day and letting the faucet run while shaving or brushing your teeth.  Another thing to take into account is the amount of water needed to produce the goods that they buy on a daily basis.

    Take, for example, Arizona.  The decision to buy locally produced rice may seem to be legitimate in light of the desire to buy local.  Unfortunately rice is a water-intensive crop.  That is to say that a great amount of water is required to produce a grain of rice.  Arkansas, a large producer of rice, gets a much higher amount of rainfall a year.  It might make more sense for a consumer in Phoenix to buy rice from Arkansas rather than more locally-produced rice.  When one takes water footprint into account it often is better to buy the imported  foodstuff.

    Adopting efficient technologies like drip irrigation systems and computerized moisture sensors is too expensive for many farmers. The federal government sends mixed signals on conservation: The estimated $263 million the farm bill annually spends to get farmers to save water is dwarfed by the roughly $5 billion it hands out for growing water-intensive crops like rice, soybeans, and cotton, often in parched regions like Arizona.

World Water Footprint
Global Water Footprint

water footprints of various items from Mother Jones magazine

                        Microchip                                           8    gallons                              
                         Pint of beer                                     20    gallons                              
                         16 oz. Diet Coke                             33    gallons                      
                         Cotton T-shirt                               719    gallons                      
                         Pair of leather shoes                  2,113    gallons        
                         Pair of jeans                              2,866    gallons
                         Ream of white paper                  1,321    gallons
                        Midsize car                                39,090    gallons

    To calculate your water footprint, go to waterfootprint.org's quick calculator or extended calculator

Special thanks to grollen for bringing this topic to my attention.

Originally posted to Salted and Cured on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 05:43 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

    •  is Beef the worst food? (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LookingUp, LaughingPlanet, CS11, gravlax

      In terms of water consumption it sure looks like it.  Much better to eat vegetables, live lightly on the earth.

      Medicare for All, that is the REAL public option that only needs 50 votes + Biden.

      by MD patriot on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 06:17:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  only from large scale ag (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        LookingUp

        grass fed beef is much better for the environment and water use in particular.

        As for vegetables and living lightly, as a carnivore, I have to agree with you morally.  It certainly seems like the "ideal" form of citizenship doesn't it.

        "when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro" -6.75, -6.26

        by gravlax on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 06:21:44 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  even grass fed (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MD patriot, gravlax

          beef is horrible for the environment, despite being much better than feed-lot cows.  Land has to be cleared for cattle and predators have to be killed for cows to survive.  And still the C footprint is enormous.

          •  I should have considered that (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            MD patriot, Mrs M

            I guess I replied too quickly.  When I used the term "grass-fed" I was thinking in particular of some small-scale farms with which I am familiar.  Predators in WV aren't prevalent like they are in the western US and other areas.

            Again, I don't purport to know everything and I appreciate your pointing out something I overlooked.  Thank you.

            "when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro" -6.75, -6.26

            by gravlax on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 06:31:42 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  that's easy to do (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              MD patriot, Eloise, Mrs M, gravlax

              I clicked on your diary expecting to feel smug - my water comes from a well, there is ample clean water in my neighborhood and my state, I grow a lot of my food, even my beer is the local brew...but I like my coffee dammit. and the odd burger or steak.

              So thanx a bunch for harshing my mellow.

              I heard a similar story recently on NPR about the ecological cost (incl water) of the Kindle vs paper books. Blows away the conventional thinking that no paper = greener by a mile.

              The Republican Party will never die until there is a new political home for racists.

              by kamarvt on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 06:38:44 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  yeah the coffee thing (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                kamarvt, Mrs M

                blew me away too.  Don't get me wrong.  I am probably one of the worst offenders of this concept.  I'm just passing along a new thing I learned.

                Good for you for doing what you can.  One of the things that I either forgot to cover or only glossed over is the fact that some areas have a lot more water than others.  I'm willing to bet that anyplace that is growing coffee has a plentiful rain supply.  Which is a long way of saying that a high water footprint may not always be a bad thing.

                As for the burger or steak I'm with you there too.  I'll let you argue with the vegans on your own though.  ;)

                "when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro" -6.75, -6.26

                by gravlax on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 06:43:47 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  Land has to be cleared to grow crops n/t (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            gravlax
      •  absolutely (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MD patriot, gravlax

        beyond just the water footprint, the carbon (and methane) footprint and overall inefficiency of beef-consumption for calories makes it by far the worst thing to eat for the health of the planet.
        Cows in and of themselves are not particularly bad, if left to fend for themselves and integrate with their environment their value is pretty much equal to whatever other ungulates.  However, that isn't what happens anymore and the production aspect of raising and then marketing beef is untenable.

      •  Chocolate (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        gravlax

        is the worst according to the chart. By a large margin, I might add.

        Of course, that's water only. Cocoa plants don't fart.

        The best way to save the planet is to keep laughing!

        by LaughingPlanet on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 07:46:10 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The calculators aren't perfect (9+ / 0-)

    they don't allow for container gardening, which I do. And I had to guess as to kg.s... Ended up with 932 cubic meters/year. The site doesn't tell me if that's low, high or average. I also can't figure in the fact that we have a well. Still, it's enlightening.

    Water is going to be an extremely important factor much sooner than we think. There will be wars over it, probably. When I think of how some people waste it, I get pretty pissed off. One day those golf courses won't be so important....

    A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.

    by Purple Priestess on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 06:01:14 AM PDT

    •  I think that they are (4+ / 0-)

      just for provoking thought but thanks for the comment PurplePriestess.  There are certainly other factors that affect the total.

      One can only hope that golf courses recede in importance as time progresses.  I used to live on Maui and it always galled me that the greenest spots on the dry side of the island were the golf courses and shopping malls.

      "when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro" -6.75, -6.26

      by gravlax on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 06:05:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I have been on a private well (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Purple Priestess, gravlax

      here and there, for over 30 years. All I "pay" is electric to run the pump. My well in Ontario could probably support a car wash, but it ain't happening. I don't water lawns, or even outside plants, and even in bad dry years, I would not do that.

      Yep, containers, pots, mulch. however, I do live in NE US and water is not a worry, unless your well drills in 500 ft.

      Americans, while occasionally willing to be serfs, have always been obstinate about being peasantry. F. Scott Fitzgerald, the Great Gatsby

      by riverlover on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 06:28:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  We don't water either. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        riverlover, gravlax

        In the NW there's seldom a need to. We live on 20 acres so it's not practical in any case. We don't mow much, either... that's what the alpacas are for ;)

        A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.

        by Purple Priestess on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 06:43:41 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Why not? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        riverlover, gravlax

        Why not water your outside plants?  If you're using a well, you're drawing from groundwater, and if you putting it on the ground, it's going back into groundwater, minus whatever evaporation might occur, no?  And any evaporation raises the humidity, which just leads to minutely higher chances of cloud formation and rain?

        Or do you live somewhere where it would immediately be runoff and be whisked away down a river?

        I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken. - Oliver Cromwell

        by Ezekial 23 20 on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 08:12:53 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Down a river would be correct ;) (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          gravlax

          In Ontario living, that would be about 200 ft down a hill. But it's a sand hill, so runoff is not likely. And I don't fertilize the lawn because of the proximity.

          Americans, while occasionally willing to be serfs, have always been obstinate about being peasantry. F. Scott Fitzgerald, the Great Gatsby

          by riverlover on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 12:59:39 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for the diary. (7+ / 0-)

    So many don't even begin to think about this:

    Another thing to take into account is the amount of water needed to produce the goods that they buy on a daily basis.

    I've added eKos to your tags so your diary will be scooped up in the new ecodiary series.

  •  Question (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    environmentalist, LookingUp, gravlax

    The negative impacts of water use would seem to have as much to do with what happens to the water and where it goes after it's used, as with the volume. You sort of allude to this is the Arizona/Arkansas example.

    Are there calculations that include those considerations beyond just the volume?

    "So, am I right or what?"

    by itzik shpitzik on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 06:03:14 AM PDT

  •  Pollution (5+ / 0-)

    Another thing to think about with this is water pollution.  There is the AMOUNT used and then there is the amount rendered unusable by the pollution.

    The obvious example is a factory dumping waste in a creek but think also about all the pollutants that wash off a road into creek or the way overgrazed areas effect stream quality, or think of all that pollution out in the ocean and what it does...obviously I could go on and on.

    The point is that we have an even bigger impact on waters than just the amount we use.

    This is a good tool to bring awareness to am important issue.  Thanks for pointing it out.

    •  absolutely (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      environmentalist

      just one example in the Chesapeake Bay area is the fact that runoff pollution has just about killed off the oyster population.  This is more than just a problem for foodies who love to eat them but for the former oystermen of the Bay.

      "when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro" -6.75, -6.26

      by gravlax on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 06:17:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Also water is affected by garbage disposals. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      riverlover, environmentalist, gravlax

      Garbage disposals are good for getting rid of things in the sink that could result in the growth of bacteria and molds, but the organic matter than stresses the water treatment system.

      It's better to compost the food waste and get good soil from it.

      "Trust only those who doubt" Lu Xun

      by LookingUp on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 06:21:25 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I wish more people would compost n/t (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        environmentalist, LookingUp, freesia

        "when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro" -6.75, -6.26

        by gravlax on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 06:22:21 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  There needs to be more incentive (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          gravlax

          While I have no problem with people who choose to garden, my interest in it is rather minimal, so I hardly have a burning need for compost. And that's assuming I even had the property for it. So most of my food waste is either trashed or goes down the disposal. Mostly the former, actually, as much because our disposal is awful as out of environmental concerns.

          Some kind of market system for compost would be nice, though: I have family members who are into gardening and are always on the lookout for composted soil. There should be more incentive for people like me to compost and make the end result available to people who need it. Or even community composting (for apartment folks like me) with much the same goals in mind.

          Deoliver47 was right and deserves some apologies.

          by seancdaug on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 07:55:44 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  If you have a septic tank (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        environmentalist, LookingUp, gravlax

        you learn that disposals are really bad. Not that I want people to all go back to private wells and septic tanks, but the clueful who deal with them realize a lot of limitations and think carefully about what goes down the toilet. Or the sink.

        Americans, while occasionally willing to be serfs, have always been obstinate about being peasantry. F. Scott Fitzgerald, the Great Gatsby

        by riverlover on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 06:34:23 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Even where water is plentiful, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greenskeeper, gravlax

    it takes energy to move it around, and that means that using excess water adds to the carbon footprint as well as to the water footprint.

    "Trust only those who doubt" Lu Xun

    by LookingUp on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 06:16:44 AM PDT

  •  and thus california exports its water (4+ / 0-)

    all over the country and the world, in the form of fruits, nuts, vegetables, wine, rice, milk and cheese.

    surf putah, your friendly neighborhood central valley samizdat

    by wu ming on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 06:23:00 AM PDT

  •  Here on Long Island with everyone (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gravlax

    chipping in to do their part on conservation and the big infux of bottled the amount of water used has gone down drasticly. Now the problem is flooding. We have water levels that are approching near record levels.

    If we all just stopped voting would they all just go away?

    by longislandny on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 06:25:56 AM PDT

    •  I didn't know that (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      longislandny

      like I said before, it gets complex very quickly and unintended consequences quickly add up.  Maybe some day there will be a way to capture the excess water and sell it.  Sort of like cap and trade for water.

      Thanks for the contribution longislandny

      "when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro" -6.75, -6.26

      by gravlax on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 06:27:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I moved into my neighborhood 13 (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        gravlax

        years ago. At the time they were raising the grade of a road between a lake and wetlands on the other side. Now the water has risen almost to the point where it was raised. There is a resturant there that has been around for as long as I can remember,and Im old, and it is closed now because the water table filled the basement and what with mold and everything it's closed.

        If we all just stopped voting would they all just go away?

        by longislandny on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 06:31:43 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  MEAT (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greenskeeper, CS11, gravlax

    50% of all potable water in the U.S. goes to livestock.

    One pound of beef used 2,000 gallons of water.  Livestock industry analysts dispute this number and say it's only 500 gallons of water.  So next time you eat a steak, imagine dumping 500-2,000 gallons of water on the ground...

    The day may come, when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been withholden from them but by the hand of tyranny.

    by Tetris on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 07:06:39 AM PDT

    •  there is no doubt Tetris (0+ / 0-)

      that raising livestock uses an inordinate amount of water, space, grain, and many other things.  Thanks for adding a link and participating in the discussion.

      "when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro" -6.75, -6.26

      by gravlax on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 07:13:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Terrific diary! I'm in Southern Cal where (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LaughingPlanet, freesia, gravlax

    we're all quite water-aware.  Awareness does not always translate into action, but at least we're aware :)

    Finally broke down, joined the twittering classes: RL_Miller

    by RLMiller on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 07:06:48 AM PDT

  •  Thanks. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greenskeeper, LaughingPlanet, gravlax

    This is a critically important topic.  The organization Corporate Accountability International is working hard on water issues on a number of fronts, though more from an environmental justice point of view.  Their big campaign lately has been "Think outside the bottle" to try to get folks away from bottled water and other ways corporations try to profit from water control.  (In other countries they fight privatization of water services and exploitation of locals, as well as resisting big corporations' attempts to bottle and ship away local water.) This is the group's website.

  •  What's the matter with Guyana? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gravlax

    They are on a par with the US on water footprint.

    Thailand I understand; they are a major rice exporter.

    Very important diary; thanks much.

    The best way to save the planet is to keep laughing!

    by LaughingPlanet on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 07:42:31 AM PDT

    •  I wish I knew (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LaughingPlanet

      the only thing I can come up with is that maybe they get a lot of rain and export a fair amount of crops.  hard to say.

      Thanks for thinking to link the picture.  Wish I had thought of that.

      "when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro" -6.75, -6.26

      by gravlax on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 07:53:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Serious issue ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gravlax

    water footprint of energy sources ...

    Sigh -- water footprint, to me, can be confusing and, in many ways, misleading.  What is the 'water footprint', really, of a crop that is watered solely with rainwater? What about my strawberries, where I (occasionally) use water from my rain barrel? What about ...

    •  ... and yes, really confusing (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      A Siegel

      I couldn't agree more.  I am merely scratching the surface with this.  I hope to learn more and hopefully be better able to explain it.

      Thank you for reading.

      "when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro" -6.75, -6.26

      by gravlax on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 03:25:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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