Our everyday hidden water consumption

Day after day, we use tremendous amounts of water, not only for drinking, washing and cooking, but also for producing our food, even though we are often unaware of those quantities. The water footprint is an important measure that shows how much the production of the foods, products and processes that are required for our lives consume of that indispensable resource. Let’s look at some thought-provoking data.

The water footprint measures the direct and indirect water consumption of a person, a community or a company. It takes into account all the water resources that are used or polluted during the entire production process. Our direct water footprint shows how much water we consume in the course of our lives at the individual, community or even national level. The indirect version of the indicator shows how much water is consumed by the production of the goods and products that we consume.

Who uses the most water?

Only 3% of the world’s total quantity of water is suitable for human consumption. 11% of that amount is used by households, 19% by industry, while 70% is used in agriculture. An average citizen of the developing countries only use 300 litres of water a day for doing the dishes, showers and washing clothes. But in fact we use a great deal more water, up to 5,000 litres per day, as approximately 90% of our actual water consumption is invisible to us. Experts call that amount virtual water. It is worth looking at the water requirements for the production of a few everyday items:

  • 1 average T-shirt: 2,700 litres
  • 1 pair of jeans: 8,000 litres
  • 1 apple: 125 litres
  • 1 slice of bread: 44 litres
  • 1 egg: 20 litres
  • 1 cup of coffee: 145 litres

Would you have thought so?

Producing the fodder to raise an average cow requires over three million litres of water. The animal itself drinks 24,000 litres, while maintenance of the cowshed, transportation and slaughter requires an additional 7000 litres. All in all, the production of 200 kg of beef consumes almost 3.1 million litres of water.

The production of an average breakfast requires eight bathtubs of water, a half-litre bottle takes 5.5 litres to make. Would you have thought that you can consume as much as 150 litres in a relaxed evening? All it takes is a couple of shots of whisky.

A film by UNESCO WWAP. Produced and animated by Steve Cutts

While an increasing number of alternatives are becoming available to replace other resources, such as crude oil, water is completely indispensable for our lives in a number of different ways, so access to it is one of the key issues for the future. According to Stephen Leahy*, by 2025, three-fifth of mankind will not have access to enough water, so those who do have a particularly great responsibility for managing that indispensable resource in full awareness of its great importance.

* Based on Stephen Leahy’s book, Your Water Footprint.

For more interesting data, visit http://waterfootprint.org/en/water-footprint/what-is-water-footprint/