How big is your water footprint?

2014-08-25 08:06


Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

London - If you recently bought a pair of jeans or ate a burger for dinner, followed by a nice cup of coffee, you probably didn't link the touch of cotton or the aroma of the food to the amount of water that was used to produce them.

It might be good idea to start thinking about it.

There is more to a cup of coffee than just the 125ml of water poured into a cafetiere: an astounding 140l of water is needed to grow the coffee beans for one cup. The production of one hamburger requires 17 times more: 2 400l.

Just 1kg of cotton (think a pair of jeans) requires 10 000l of water for growing cotton, dying and washing.

That's why our water footprint, the impact our activities has on fresh water resources matters. Our decisions about what we consume affect water resources in places where the products are made.

And many of them, like world's top cotton producers China and India, or coffee growers like Colombia, may already be experiencing water problems.

According to Ruth Mathews, director of the Water Footprint Network, which promotes sustainability and efficiency of water use, it’s time not just for big companies, many of which have already started calculating their water footprints but also for individuals to be aware of the effects of their consumption.

"If we continue to improve our quality of life in terms of the amount of goods that we consume, more and more people will be living with water scarcity", Mathews told Thomson Reuters Foundation in a phone interview from the Netherlands.

'Hidden water'

An average person in the UK uses around 150l of water per day, a figure that rises to more than 4 500l per day, when all the "hidden water" is calculated. However, almost 750 million people worldwide do not have access to clean water at all.

"Not everybody will become a vegetarian, but you can make considerations whether you eat meat one day less a week. Or is there a need for me to have 20 cotton T-shirts or can I get away with 10 or five?" Mathews said.

Changes in our decision-making, she argues, can help other people gain access to clean water.

"Even companies may not know exactly where their cotton came from for the products that they’re selling", said Mathews.

Therefore it's important, she said, to promote the message about the need for transparency in the global supply chain to companies and governments.

"If we continue on the path of overusing our water resources it's going to be more and more difficult for us to be able to fairly support our human beings with the goods and services that we need not only for basic needs but for good quality of life.

"What an individual can do is look at the consumer choices and see if they can make different choices that can have smaller water footprint. Not just a smaller water footprint, but for a more sustainable one."

Read more on:    water  |  conservation  |  plants

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.