Skip to main content

    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'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.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site